Army to Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist: Grad Recounts Road to DNP
Brent Ramsey has stories.
It’s not just that he’s served through multiple Army deployments at home and abroad or that he’s earned multiple advanced degrees. It’s that Ramsey isn’t one to let opportunities pass by.
So, when Ramsey, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at University Hospital and Clinics, found out the University of Louisiana at Lafayette offered an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, he jumped at the opportunity.
At the time, his wife Casside, a teacher and Army Reservist, had been activated to serve on the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) at a joint base in San Antonio, relocating with their then-5-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. Ramsey was traveling back and forth when time allowed.
“The program format looked really, really enticing,” he says. “When I interviewed with Dr. Jennifer Lemoine, I just felt this sense of family and caring. It didn't feel like they were just trying to push you through. It was a win-win from the beginning."
Building a Career
Nursing wasn’t always “the plan” for Ramsey.
After graduating from high school in his home state of Ohio, Ramsey joined the U.S. Marine Corps. When his service was ending, he began looking for a path that would give him career longevity and opportunity.
Ramsey was 29 and planning to become a paramedic when he visited a coworker in the hospital who’d just had a baby. As he spoke with a nurse about his plans, she offered a piece of unsolicited advice: pursue nursing.
And he did.
Ramsey enrolled in the nursing program at Wright State University. When he saw ROTC cadets rappelling off the side of the building in the quad, his interest was piqued. Because ROTC didn’t offer a scholarship option for the nursing program, the sergeant encouraged Ramsey to look into joining the Ohio Army National Guard.
Ramsey expected his service with the National Guard would be confined to Ohio. Instead, after graduating in 1999, Ramsey was commissioned for three years of active duty as a registered nurse in the Army. He was first stationed in Germany, where he decided to earn his first master’s degree in human relations.
Before he made it to his next assignment as an operating room nurse in Alaska, he detoured for a specialized nursing course in El Paso, Texas, where he saw certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) in action. He says he knew that was his next step.
While deployed in Iraq – where he met his wife, Casside – Ramsey was accepted to the CRNA program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He completed the program in 2010 and earned his M.S. in Nursing.
Making a New Home
Ramsey and Casside married in March 2012. The next month, Ramsey was deployed to Afghanistan.
“When Casside found out I was going to Afghanistan, we pushed the wedding up,” Ramsey says. “Because you never know. We've both had a couple friends that have passed on in a war zone.”
When Ramsey returned, it was to Casside’s home state of Louisiana. Ramsey accepted a position in 2016 with University Hospital and Clinics and his colleagues were quick to acclimate him to one of Lafayette’s best pastimes: tailgating at Cajun Field before a home baseball game.
It was while Ramsey and his colleagues were preparing to cheer on the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns that he learned about the University’s online DNP program.
“I mean, here it was right under my nose. I didn't even know it existed so for two years,” he says. “The timing couldn't have been better.”
He applied, interviewed, and was accepted to begin courses in Fall 2018.
Finding the Balance
Although learning in difficult circumstances wasn’t new for Ramsey, earning his doctoral degree while balancing hectic work and family responsibilities brought new challenges.
Ramsey says the curriculum was structured so that no semester was overwhelming, and each course built on the others.
“It's like having a part time job, and there's no set schedule,” he says. “There were days where I just said, ‘You know what? I'm not doing anything today. I'm just going to cut the grass, play with the kids, but I'm not touching school.’ I think that's a vital part of it. You have to have days where you say, ‘I'm not going to do it today,’ and that's what we did.”
Connecting with other members of his cohort, he says, provided added support.
“We have a little support group,” he says. “We never met in real life. It's all virtual — we're talking on the phone or email or texting — but it's just nice to have somebody there.”
As COVID-19 progressed from epidemic to global pandemic, Ramsey was deployed to Fort Gordon, Georgia, to serve at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medical Center. With their children and Casside out of school for the summer, the family spent the summer together in Georgia living in an RV.
Throughout the summer, Ramsey was collecting data for his DNP Synthesis Project — a quality improvement project on certified registered nurse anesthetists’ handoff protocols. He initiated the study at a Lafayette area hospital before his deployment and was able to able to continue the study from Georgia.
Although he’d implemented and participated in quality improvement projects through the military, the DNP project gave him the tools to study and address issues in a different setting.
“Now it feels a little bit more natural to take a research finding and develop it into the clinical application,” he says.
Ramsey, now 56, says earning his Doctor of Nursing Practice degree was important to him as a mentor to student nurse anesthetists at UHC and means he’ll have more opportunities in his future.
"I'm representing the CRNA field, and I have those credentials and went to a great university,” Ramsey says. “I'm very fortunate and I'm very thankful that it worked out this way, to have my clinical terminal degree and open up a few more doors down the road.”
Expand the scope of your practice and set a course toward your terminal degree through UL Lafayette’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program. Request information today.