Leading the Charge for Change

Graduate Uses Leadership, Evidence-Based Practice
to Improve Asthma Treatment in Rural Texas

By Teri Speece
When Wren Deavers, D.N.P, APRN, CPNP-PC, completed her doctoral education, she was surprised to find that it not only made her a better nurse practitioner—it made her a better leader.

Photo courtesy of Karin McCannon Photography
In her final project to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, Wren Deavers, D.N.P., APRN, CPNP-PC, used knowledge gained from leadership courses to improve the treatment of children with asthma in rural Texas.

“The program had many leadership courses, which seemed odd at first. But they really helped me,” said Dr. Deavers, a 2014 graduate of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program. “Nurses don’t always recognize themselves as leaders. But we need to see ourselves that way to become change agents in health care.”

Dr. Deavers also learned a process called evidence-based practice (EBP), in which clinicians identify a problem, determine possible solutions by integrating clinical knowledge with scientific research, and translate findings into sustainable improvements. Her skills were tested in her final D.N.P. project at a school-based health clinic in rural Texas, in which about 15 percent of the district’s 650 students had been diagnosed with asthma and were chronically undertreated.

“I noticed that many of the kids didn’t know when their last asthma follow-up was, and they had grown accustomed to their symptoms as being normal,” said Dr. Deavers. The nearest practice was 30 miles away, so she suspected that regular follow-ups were a challenge for the parents. A research review revealed that rural kids with asthma were more likely to be hospitalized than urban kids.

She determined that the most sustainable improvement she could initiate was to collect asthma action plans for affected students to help them manage their symptoms at school. “It’s a good tool that not only helps the patient, it helps the parents manage symptoms at home,” she said. Dr. Deavers also convinced the district’s administration to change its policy to require action plans for every asthma student.

“Sustainability is one of the crucial things I learned. As health care leaders, we can’t fix something permanently unless the solution is simple enough to be maintained.”

Currently, Dr. Deavers plans to put her skills to use for another patient population—kids with Down syndrome. Dr. Deavers is currently partnering with a speech language pathologist to disseminate research into emerging methods of improving speech intelligibility. Her goal is to provide information to the medical community about these speech methods so they can educate parents.

“As a mother of a son with Down syndrome, I can see how important this research is, and I want to help the medical community improve outcomes for Down syndrome patients,” said Dr. Deavers. “As a D.N.P., I can use the process I learned to help bring it into practice a lot sooner.”

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In the 2017 issue of Tribute

Tribute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2017 issue

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