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DNP Grad Overcomes Breast Cancer, COVID to Earn Degrees

UL Online -- Wed, 12/02/2020 - 4:00pm

“Giving up is never an option. If I start something, I’m going to see it through; I’m going to finish.” 

Growing up in a military family, LaTosha Mollette developed an unrelenting drive that has helped her face down extreme challenges while earning her master's and doctorate in nursing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.LaTosha Mollette, DNP, with her family.

The Ruston-based nurse practitioner completed the online BSN to DNP degree program while caring for her patients and for herself after a breast cancer diagnosis in February 2019 and COVID diagnosis in Fall 2020.

Looking back on the last year, Mollette is overwhelmed with what she’s accomplished personally, professionally, and academically. She says staying on course has only been possible because of her drive and the support of her family and friends as well as her synthesis project chair, Dr. Deedra Harrington. 

Answering the Call

Mollette began her career as a registered nurse with an associate’s degree from Louisiana Tech. She then completed her bachelor’s degree online while working. 

Mollette says, for her, nursing is a calling. Advancing her education with a graduate degree was one way to ensure she gave all she could. 

“I wanted to be able to give more to my patients to be able to make a difference in their lives — not just at the bedside — but be able to see them through an acute illness or something chronic that they're dealing with,” Mollette says.

When Mollette was ready to apply for her Master of Science in Nursing, she wanted a university that valued its students. Her sister was enrolled in UL Lafayette’s School of Music and Performing Arts and talked about the culture and instructors’ responsiveness.

“We were in different fields of study, but from her feedback and looking at the curriculum, I felt like that the MSN was a good fit for me,” she said. 

In addition to the online Master of Science in Nursing program, UL Lafayette offers two tracks for prospective students to earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice degree online: BSN to DNP and Post-MSN.

Mollette enrolled in the master’s program in Fall 2016. Once she got to know the nursing graduate faculty, she adjusted her track to simultaneously work toward her MSN and DNP.

Succeeding Together

Mollette had nearly finished her MSN requirements when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined not to put her degree on hold, Mollette worked double-time to complete coursework and clinical requirements.  

“Things go fast when you get diagnosis like that, so sometimes it seems like a blur. I just remember going to multiple doctor's appointments," Mollette says. “I took a couple of days to kind of gain my composure, then I emailed my instructors, told them what was going on, and I tried to organize my schedule where I was able to work ahead to get as much work done as possible.”

Dr. Harrington, associate professor of nursing, has worked with Mollette for two years developing, planning, and executing her synthesis project — an opioid risk assessment tool for patients with acute pain. When Mollette came to her with the news of her cancer diagnosis, Dr. Harrington was ready to help however she could. 

“I just told (her): Whatever she needed for me to help her, as far as deadlines, or if she needed some additional time to complete her chapters — or anything — that we would work with her," Dr. Harrington says. “But, really, she is extremely resilient.”

At the time, Mollette took her diagnosis and treatment in stride — it was one more obligation to organize on her way to her goals. The day after her surgery, Mollette says, she was already plugged back into her coursework.

“That was kind of tough, but it made me appreciate the instructors even more, and I knew I was in the right place, just because of the support that I saw during that time,” Mollette says. “And then this year, I was diagnosed with COVID so there have been a lot of obstacles, but I've been able to conquer and continue to push forward. 

“I've never had an instructor not respond in a timely manner or not offer that word of encouragement. That's definitely been a blessing.”

Dr. Harrington says her role isn’t just to serve as an instructor, but to support and mentor doctoral students as colleagues as they develop their practice.

"A doctoral degree is difficult, but it should not be unattainable for the students that pursue it. Because if they put in the work, and they're given the guidance that they need, they're going to be successful,” Dr. Harrington says. “I remember how I had that guidance when I was in my doctoral program, and I used to hear a lot of other students who didn't and struggled. I told myself that I never wanted to be that chair that didn't give the student the support and what they needed to be successful.”

Upon completing her doctoral degree, Mollette’s next step is implementing her synthesis project at a sister clinic in Bossier City. And — much to the relief of her family — taking a break from her academic pursuits. 

Eventually, Mollette hopes to teach future nurses and model what she’s learned from UL Lafayette’s nursing faculty. 

“I want to be like Dr. Harrington,” she says. “I’ve never experienced an instructor pour so much into their student. When I think about all I’ve been through in the last year, it’s been a lot. She has shown so much compassion, humility, and understanding. She really went to bat for me, making sure I’ve had everything I needed.” 

Expand the scope of your practice and set a course toward your terminal degree through UL Lafayette’s online BSN-to-DNP track. You’ll work with dedicated nursing faculty and know first-hand why the National League of Nursing named the University a Center of Excellence for Nursing Education.

Request information today.