Dr. Denise McNulty: Striving To Be a Servant of Human Life

Dr. Denise McNulty: Striving To Be a Servant of Human Life

Dr. Denise McNulty, DNP, MSN, RN-BC, ARNPhas been busy the last two years getting AMU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program off the ground, but she has also found time to pursue her own research interests and remain connected to the larger community of nurses and nurse practitioners. In all that she does, McNulty is focused on one of the central callings of Catholic healthcare—to be a “[guardian] and [servant] of human life” (Evangelium Vitae, 89).  

McNulty, Associate Professor of Nursing and Department Chair,helped establish the B.S. in Nursing Program in Fall 2015; Spring 2017 will see the program’s first cohort graduate and begin entering the field. The process of building a program from the ground up is a challenging one, but McNulty has proven herself capable to balance this project with her duties as a teacher, scholar, and neighbor.

As a teacher, she has been offering courses in the Nursing Program such as Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing (NURS 350), Leadership and Management in Clinical Environments (NURS 450), Evidence-Based Nursing Practice (NURS 460), Introduction to Nursing (NURS 210), and Role Preparation (NURS 220). She has been walking her students through the foundations on which the practice of nursing is built; she has also been guiding them towards practical experience and networking opportunities. For instance, McNulty has secured invitations for AMU nursing students to attend the local Collier County Nurses dinner meetings—an opportunity for students to network with and learn from nurse leaders and staff nurses in the area, and to hear from notable guest speakers. AMU’s nursing faculty are also invited to attend these meetings.

As a scholar, McNulty has been actively pursuing her academic research interests and sharing her findings with peers. This past November, she delivered a presentation at the Florida Organization of Nurse Executives (FONE) Conference, which took place in Orlando, FL. In her evidence-based talk, “Promoting a Healthy Work Environment by Utilizing the Journey to Empowerment to Enhance Nurses’ Sense of Empowerment,” McNulty presented the findings from a study that was conducted at a local hospital. The study found that offering nurses professional development, specifically through the Journey to Empowerment for Nurses seminar, may be an effective intervention in enhancing nurses’ perceived sense of empowerment, thereby making them more likely to use effective work practices which result in positive patient outcomes.

McNulty reports that her research was positively received at the FONE conference. Her inspiration to pursue this line of research, she explains, stems from “over twenty years of direct observations of staff nurses, nurse leaders, and nurse educators.” Continuing, she says that “the literature supports a need for empowering nurses, but a gap exists for interventions to enhance nurses’ sense of empowerment.” McNulty’s findings will appear in a nursing leadership textbook that is due to be published Spring 2017.

Dr. Denise McNulty’s scholarly research is well integrated with her work as a university professor. She incorporates several of the empowerment interventions into the courses she teaches. “We need to prepare our students to become future nurses who have an understanding of the realities and challenges of nursing and healthcare,” she states. “By exposing our nursing students to the interventions that have been found to be effective with nurses, we can help to enhance our students’ understanding of their own sense of empowerment before they enter the nursing workforce.”

As a neighbor, McNulty’s care for the thriving of the human person extends beyond her academic interests and into the larger nursing community. As was catalogued in a recent feature in a local newspaper, McNulty is the Founder of the recently launched Collier County Nurses, which offers area nurses—at no charge to its members—the opportunity for networking, mentoring and professional development. In the feature, McNulty says about the organization: “The nurses love it! It really is something to smile about because who takes care of the nurses? We do!”

Dr. McNulty acknowledges her fellow nursing faculty, Debra Forma, Dr. Aileen Staller, Dr. Phyllis Dolan, and Linda Moseley, for their support and for all that they do for AMU’s BSN students. McNulty shares: “We have an incredible team in the Nursing Department. We are truly blessed to be able to have such a dedicated group of nurses teaching our students!”

As a Catholic nursing program, Ave Maria University’s B.S. in Nursing cultivates in its students a care for the life of the entire human person. It adheres to the Charter for Health Care Workers issued by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers (1995), which states: 

“The work of health care persons is a very valuable service to life. It expresses a profoundly human and Christian commitment, undertaken and carried out not only as a technical activity but also as one of dedication to and love of neighbor.” 

It is vital for a Catholic nursing program not only to offer excellence in the training and knowledge necessary for the nursing profession, but also to teach its students to look to the flourishing of the whole human person.

Dr. Denise McNulty, through her teaching, research, and community outreach, is trying to do just that.