The RN Scholar is the highest level of the Nursing Professional Portfolio Program. In order to participate, the nurses must have a master’s degree, five (5) years of experience in their specialty, and at least one (1) year of participation at the RN Expert level. The purpose of the RN Scholar is to apply their advanced education skills and clinical expertise to contribute to the generation of new nursing knowledge through completion of an annual research fellowship.

The 2018-2019 RN Scholars are:

  • Leona Baxter, DSMC-UT MICU
  • Ashley Hall, DSMC-UT MICU
  • Kim Fraze, DCMC Imaging
  • Johanna Wynn, SMCA NICU

Meet the RN Scholars

Johanna Wynn – SMCA NICU

Johanna has been with Seton Healthcare for nearly 11 years and began her role as a nurse in the Intermediate Care Unit at Seton Medical Center Austin, then transitioned to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in 2013. She has a BA from Smith College, BSN from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and an MSN from Loyola University New Orleans.

Johanna explains why she chose to participate as an RN Scholar this year: “it provides an opportunity for me to explore my interest in nursing research without having to leave the bedside.  Last year I participated as a Scholar for the experience of working on a research project with a group of nurses.  The research process was new to me, and I liked the idea of working with a group; hoping the experience would allow us to learn together and support one another through the process.

Johanna further describes that this year she wanted to work on a project specific to her unit, which means she was working alone.  She states, “I am a NICU nurse at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin.  Our specialty implemented a new protocol in the fall of 2017.  The new protocol was appropriate for many of the patients we care for.  However, it was less clear how a smaller subset of our patient population would be affected.  With more than a year under our belt with the new protocol, I wanted to review practices and outcomes to see what the data showed.  I am in the middle of gathering data now so there is still a lot of work and analysis to be done.  My hope is that the findings of this project will show that we are doing the best thing for all of our patients.  But if the data does not support it, then I am ready to take the challenge to ensure that we are providing the best care for all of our babies.”

“It’s exciting to be able to transform a clinical question into a project designed to find the answer. Nurses have the power to affect change.  It may not come with my current study, but it might.  We are on the front lines caring for patients every day.  There is no one better to conduct research to craft patient care policies and protocols that will ensure the best possible outcomes for our patients,” explains Johanna.

Lastly, Johanna comments, “sometimes there are nurses who ‘run the other way’ at the mention of the word research. The research process can be tedious, frustrating and time consuming at times.  But, I would encourage nurses to get involved in some way.  You don’t have to design your own study to be engaged.  Just talking with someone who is working on a project – any project – can potentially offer previously unconsidered insight.  Nurses provide valuable insight into the practice of caring for patients that no one else has because our direct contact with patients.  Nursing will continue to grow as a profession if we step up, speak out and demonstrate what we contribute to quality patient outcomes.”

Leona Baxter, DSMC MICU

Leona has been a nurse for 18 years and received her MSN in 2015 at The University of Texas at Austin.  She has been with the Seton Healthcare family for 10 years, mostly in Brackenridge’s IMC unit, and transitioned with the unit to MICU when Brackenridge moved to the new hospital, Dell Seton Medical Center at UT.

Leona wanted to create a project specific to critical care, but unsure of the steps to accomplish this within Seton.  So when she heard about the RN scholar program, she wanted to join the program to gain an understanding of what it would take in order for her to achieve her project goals. She states, “It’s been a while since I did a research project for graduate school and its great not to let it go to waste!

Leona says, “I am encouraged that I can look further into what can I can do for my unit to bring evidence-based studies/nursing research directly to the bedside and encourage my colleagues on how we can improve our own unit.”

Ashley Hall, DSMC-UT MICU

Ashley Hall has been a nurse for 6 years and works in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Dell Seton Medical Center-UT. She has spent all of her nursing career in the ICU and enjoys the constant challenge it brings her. She received my undergraduate degree from Abilene Christian University and her Master’s of Science in Nursing with a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) specialty from the University of Texas Medical Branch. She is a member of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, Sigma Theta Tau, National Society of Leadership and Success, Alpha Chi Honor Society, and also has a certification as a Clinical Nurse Leader. In addition to working at the bedside in the MICU, she teaches Adult Health clinicals for nursing students at Concordia University. When not working, she enjoys traveling with her husband, Josh, going to parks with their dog, Cola, and enjoying all the outdoor activities, music, and great food that Austin has to offer.

When asked why did she participate in the RN Scholar program this year, she says, “ I wanted to challenge myself and do something I have never had the opportunity to do before. Participating in an IRB research study from start to finish has been a difficult yet rewarding experience thus far. I have already learned so much from this opportunity and I’m looking forward to finishing and disseminating the results. The opportunity to travel and present our research at conferences around the world is certainly an added perk as well!”For Ashley, she stated that nursing is an incredible profession for many reasons, but one reason she particularly loves is how many different avenues of nursing there are to explore. She currently works at the bedside, teaches nursing students, and now participates in nursing research, all of which challenge and stretch her in very different ways. She says “it’s fun to learn and explore the unknown, which is exactly what this research experience has allowed me to do.”

Lastly, Ashley says, “Nursing research can be for anyone and everyone!! One of the greatest things about this program has been the guidance and support we have received through every step of the process. I can’t imagine trying to navigate the rigorous ins and outs of the IRB without our leader, Kimberly Lewis, MSN, RN, and the other scholars in the program with me. This opportunity has allowed me to participate in something I otherwise wouldn’t have known how to do on my own, and I’m thankful I took the plunge to get involved this year.”

Kim Fraze, DCMC Imaging

Kim Fraze currently works at Dell Children’s Medical Center as an Imaging nurse.  She graduated from the University of Maryland as a Clinical Nurse Leader. She started her nursing career in the PICU where she stayed for 6 years. While in the PICU, she was a research assistant for an IRB study examining Nurse Integrated Rounding, as well as a CPR instructor, and obtained her CCRN certification. She quickly discovered her love for teaching while precepting and became a Pediatric Clinical Instructor for University of Maryland and DePaul University of Chicago. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors with her husband and dogs, as well as gardening, swimming, and drawing.

Kim says, “I decided to participate in the RN Scholar level this year because I wanted a challenge and to learn more about research. This is a unique experience. We get to work with other nurses from different units, otherwise we may have never met. It is interesting to see their perspective and work together as a team to begin our venture into research. I highly encourage all of our colleagues to participate in nursing research. Every nurse has a problem they wish they could solve to make their hospital a better place. Research gives us the chance for others to hear our voice.”