Carol Cassedy
Carol Cassedy is part of the inaugural cohort of the University of Louisville School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

The suicide of Carol Cassedy’s son, a Marine corporal who grappled with post-traumatic stress disorder, spurred her to pursue an advanced nursing degree to improve mental health care, especially for veterans.

Cassedy, BSN, RN, is part of the inaugural cohort of the University of Louisville School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, composed of 54 students for the 2016-2017 academic year.

The program, which begins Aug. 25, prepares nurse leaders to meet changing health care demands by focusing on advanced practice knowledge to improve outcomes of diverse patient populations. The doctoral students will focus on development and use of evidence-based care, management of care, leadership in health care organizations, and development and implementation of health policy.

Having the authority to decide treatment plans for patients based on evidence is important to Cassedy, who will pursue the DNP program’s psychiatric/mental health concentration.

Her 31-year-old son Sean Cassedy killed himself in May 2013 after three deployments to Iraq. He had suffered a combat-related traumatic brain injury and had post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I see the problems with psychiatric care,” Cassedy said. “We lose too many veterans to suicide. I think all we’re doing is writing prescriptions and it doesn’t solve the problem. We’re just treating symptoms. What are we missing? What are we not seeing? At a doctoral level, I can do research and have a different view from a bedside nurse.”

The DNP program places nursing on par with other health professions that have practice doctorates – such as pharmacy and physical therapy – and aligns with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s call to increase the level of preparation necessary for advanced practice nursing roles from the master’s degree to the doctoral level.

With tracks for people with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in nursing, the program features a hybrid teaching model of in-person and online instruction. Classes will meet on campus five days a semester.

“The students will graduate to become nurse practitioners and advanced practice nursing leaders who will help shape health care and system arenas,” said School of Nursing Dean Marcia J. Hern, EdD, CNS, RN. “Using sophisticated nursing evidence, they will improve population health and organizational change.”