SMU eNews

DNP Student Takes Nursing to New Levels

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student Kathy Geier has spent much of her 38-year nursing career assisting orthopedic surgeons in conducting joint replacements. Now she is using her training and experience to educate other nurses as well as to help uninsured patients to live free from pain.

Geier is currently working on her doctoral degree at Samuel Merritt University (SMU) so that she and a colleague, AJ Benham, can realize their dream of creating an orthopedic training residency for nurse practitioners.   

"Being in school provides the discipline we need to develop our program," says Geier, who also earned a second master's degree and a Nurse Practitioner certificate 12 years ago at SMU. "We believe obtaining our DNP degrees is necessary for each of us to have the credibility we need to teach the program."

As their capstone project, the two women are creating a curriculum for the proposed residency that they hope someday will be approved as a doctoral training track by SMU, which could be replicated for other medical specialties.

"We have a vision of how to put all of these credentials into one program so those who come after us can get all of their training in one place," says Geier, whose own titles include Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA), and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).

Professor and DNP Program Director Cecily Cosby says the proposed program is intended to address the critical shortage of orthopedic-related expertise in the primary care setting. She praises Geier for bringing compassion and extensive experience to every patient encounter.

"I can think of no one I would trust more with my orthopedic care," Cosby says.

In addition to being a full-time student and working at Webster Orthopedics, Geier is a volunteer for Operation Walk USA. The organization provides free hip and knee replacement surgeries for people without health insurance who don't qualify for government assistance.

One day last December, Geier and her employing physician volunteered their time to conduct two joint replacement surgeries, each of which can normally cost tens of thousand of dollars. The operations took place at Valley Care Medical Center in Pleasanton and were featured in a KTVU television broadcast that praised the organization and its medical volunteers for giving patients "the gift of mobility."

Later this year, Geier will participate again in Operation Walk and hopes to expand their contribution to include five patients.

"The most wonderful thing about it is that it's an opportunity to give back to people who need these operations the most and can't afford it," she says.

In the meantime, Geier is finishing her doctoral studies at SMU and credits Professor Cosby for her decision to return to the University.

"I knew I'd be working with her again," she says. "She's a huge role model of mine."

The admiration is mutual.

"Kathy continues to be a pioneer in practice and a tireless model of service to the community," says Cosby. "She is a genuine representative of the SMU Care, Learn, Transform model and we are proud to call her a graduate, student, colleague and friend."

DNP student Kathy Geier (left) assists in an Operation Walk USA knee replacement surgery. Image from KTVU news video.
DNP student Kathy Geier (left) assists in an Operation Walk USA knee replacement surgery. Image from KTVU news video.
DNP student Kathy Geier
DNP student Kathy Geier