A professional nurse for more than 20 years, Stacey Lutz-McCain can also consider herself a teacher.
A diabetes nurse practitioner in the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Lutz-McCain educates fellow clinicians about procedures in the endocrine division. She also teaches veterans of the U.S. military how to use concentrated insulin that only endocrinologists can prescribe.
As a member of the first cohort to complete the Doctor of Nursing Practice program offered by Edinboro University in consortium with Clarion University, Lutz-McCain found a way to enhance the education of future DNP students.
“It was a learning experience, so I like to think we paved the way for future students and ironed out a lot of the obstacles,” said Lutz-McCain, who graduated from the program May 13.
For her doctoral project, Lutz-McCain, a former primary-care nurse practitioner at the VA Medical Center in Erie, assisted veterans with their specialized insulin and helped to expand outreach through telephone care.
Now that she has received her DNP from Edinboro, Lutz-McCain said that she’s considering teaching and possibly continuing that route at Edinboro University. She discussed her projects with the VA and being a member of the first graduating DNP class at EU during a Q&A session.
Why is it important to focus on taking care of our veterans?
I have been working at the Department of Veterans Affairs since I was 19 years old. I’ve worked with veterans of all different eras. It has been a great experience. I think it is very important to serve veterans because of what they have given to enable us to live free in this country.
Were you surprised by anything you learned?
Yes, through my studies, my view of VA was strengthened. The other students also reminded me how much VA care is evidence-based and protocol-driven. My eyes were opened and I was proud to give reports from VA.
How have face-to-face, video-care and telephone care helped to enhance your outreach to patients?
Greatly! In Erie, I only provided face-to-face consultations. But here in Pittsburgh, 90 percent of my consultations are completed through e-consults or using Clinical Video Telehealth.
Telehealth has really expanded how we deliver care. And, most importantly, it has provided care for veterans who cannot travel to receive specialty care. The majority of veterans prefer care delivered via telehealth, and we can lose the opportunity to care for them if we don’t offer it.
Who has played an important role in your success in the classroom and in your everyday life?
My amazing family has provided me the majority of my support. My husband has taken on a lot of responsibility for our three small children to enable me to obtain my doctoral degree. My parents have also helped with the children as well as providing enduring support. My friends provided encouraging words and support. The DNP professors were always available for questions and assistance.
How do you balance your DNP studies with your career and raising a family?
I have no idea how I’ve done it. I don’t think about it; I just do it. My husband, James, has been very supportive. I couldn’t do it without him. My children, Abigail, Daniel and Jamie, have had to understand that Mommy has homework to do and adapted well. They were 2, 5, and 6 years old when I started two years ago in May of 2015.
What is your proudest accomplishment in the DNP program at EU?
I am honored that my doctoral project has been accepted by the American Diabetes Association for poster presentation at their annual Scientific Session this June. I will travel to San Diego, Calif., to present.
Do you have advice for students who are considering a career in health care?
Consider it for the right reasons – because you want to help people or make a change in health care. It takes a lot of caring and compassion to work with patients and make effective changes.
The Edinboro University DNP program is a 27-credit program that can be taken part-time over five semesters in an online format. The part-time structure accommodates nurses and nurse practitioners who are employed full-time. For more information about the DNP program, visit www.Edinboro.edu/DNP.
Contributed Photo: Stacey Lutz-McCain, one of nine members of the first graduating Doctor of Nursing Practice class at Edinboro University, serves as a diabetes nurse practitioner in the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System.