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Nurse leader crosses DNP off bucket list … at age 67

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Most everyone has items on a bucket list, be it to skydive or peer over the rim of the Grand Canyon. One 67-year-old nurse, Aline Holmes, RN, APNC, MSN, DNP, kicked a major item off her list this year — earning a DNP degree May 22 from Rutgers University, Newark.
“Before I retired, I wanted to get my doctorate,” said Holmes, senior vice president of clinical affairs at the New Jersey Hospital Association in Princeton, where she has focused on applying evidence to clinical practice and how to change practice to use evidence-based practices in nurses’ work. She has no plans to change the direction of her career.
“We’ve had a lot of successes here, and I have a bigger impact than I would seeing patients in a practice,” she said.
In her work with the New Jersey Action Coalition and the New Jersey Nursing Initiative, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-supported program to increase the number of doctorally prepared nurses in the state, she has supported additional education for nurses. “I had to walk the walk,” Holmes said. “Even at my age, I thought it was important to go back and continue my formal education.”
Rutgers College of Nursing Dean William L. Holzemer, RN, PhD, FAAN, called Holmes’ return to school “wonderful.”
Holmes hopes to motivate nurses who think they are too old or have too many commitments to go back to school. Holmes worked full time while pursuing her degree.
“I was supportive, amazed and in awe of the energy level Aline has; it’s an amazing accomplishment,” said Elizabeth A. Ryan, president and CEO of the NJHA & Affiliates. “She’s an outstanding role model. If she can do it working the hours she does, most nurses could do it if they have the drive and desire.”
Ryan called Holmes unflappable in a crisis, something she attributes to her colleague’s experience in Vietnam, where she served in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.
With healthcare evolving quickly, Holmes strongly believes nurses must take part in policy decisions.
“We need to be as well educated as we can,” Holmes said. “Having a doctorate will make it easier with some of our colleagues, when we are at the same table.”
With an interest in end-of-life care communication and her work with Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment at the association, Holmes wrote as many school papers as she could on the topic. That included her final project, which focused on end-of-life issues in long-term care.
“She continues to have many projects whose goal is to improve quality of care and cost of care outcomes across the state, and we hope this program gave her some new skills,” Holzemer said.
Holmes’ children are proud and are now calling her “Doctor Mom,” she said.

Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer.

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