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family nurse practitioner

Advanced practice nursing alumna strives to eliminate health care disparities in rural Oklahoma

Molly Hannagan (BSN ’98, DNP ’19) was among the first cohort to graduate from The University of Tulsa’s doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program, which provides advanced practice nursing students with the opportunity to expand their education through extensive hands-on and clinical experiences. Completing the program’s family nurse practitioner (FNP) stream, Hannagan gained the knowledge and skills required to provide primary care to people of all ages in a wide array of settings.

blonde woman wearing a white face mask and a yellow protective hospital gown
First day of treating and testing for COVID-19 (March 20, 2020)

Shortly after graduation, Hannagan was hired by Morton Comprehensive Health Services in Tulsa. After working there for a few months, Morton relocated Hannagan to its clinic in Nowata, Oklahoma, where she now serves as that facility’s primary care nurse practitioner. The clinic delivers a variety of services, such as acute sickness visits, chronic health condition management, physical exams and women’s health care. Hannagan herself cares primarily for all ages birth to death; currently, her oldest patient is 98 years old.

“Molly has always been in the top of her class and has a desire to improve patient outcomes” said FNP Director Sheryl Stansifer. “She is knowledgeable, dependable and genuinely cares for her patients. She is a perfect fit for the Nowata clinic.”

Serving a rural community

Nowata is a rural community in the northeastern part of the state, with a population of approximately 3,000. A significant portion of Nowata’s residents lives below the poverty line, making it difficult for everyone to have equal access to health care. Hannagan’s clinic works to eliminate that disparity.

Morton Comprehensive Health Services is a Federal Qualified Health Center (FHQC). As an FHQC, its clinics provide patients with care no matter their financial situation. “We treat both patients who have insurance and those who do not, and we provide services that are income based on a sliding scale,” Hannagan explained. “Our clinic has lots of available resources and grants that ensure patients get the treatment, medication and services they need to get well and stay well.” Hannagan credits her time in TU’s DNP program with opening her eyes to health care policies and legislation and how they impact different communities.

Well-prepared to care

From a medical perspective, Hannagan also noted that TU’s FNP stream “directly prepared me to provide primary care at my clinic. I use my degree every day to diagnose and treat my patients.” Within the program, Hannagan gained experience in a variety of different medical fields, as well as pathophysiology, disease process and pharmacology. She recalls numerous hours spent learning how to perform thorough assessments and physical examinations in order to establish a diagnosis and treatment plan. Hannagan also benefited from access to state-of-the-art labs and clinical situations that gave her hands-on learning experiences.

two women wearing face masks, face shields and blue hospital gowns
Testing for COVID-19

“I was placed with great precetpors at each of my clinical sites,” Hannagan said. “It was at the Henryetta ER where I was first exposed to rural health. During my time there, I worked with Dr. Carl Glidden learning to suture, evaluate diagnostic imaging and perform minor procedures.”

She went on to gain experience in rural health at the Xavier clinic, which serves a largely non-insured Hispanic population. “I learned how to manage diabetes, and I even learned how to perform a head-to-toe assessment in Spanish there,” she recalled.

Hannagan also credits the DNP program with developing her skills beyond medicine. In particular, she notes that she was able to cultivate valuable leadership and communication skills. These skills allow her to work effectively with team members from multiple disciplines and backgrounds, both inside and outside the clinic.

Continuing to learn and grow

Working at the Nowata clinic affords this lifelong learner daily opportunities to increase her knowledge and skills. With the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, Hannagan has had to learn how to be adaptable to ever-changing workplace conditions. “My company has provided sound policies and procedures based on the current information, despite how often it changed,” she remarked. “I have access to all the personal protective equipment I need, as well as to all the testing supplies and medication my patients need. I am grateful for that support, as well as for the fact I have not contracted COVID-19.”

two women and one man wearing protective face masks
Hannagan with her oldest patient and another nurse

Hannagan advocates that BSN-prepared nurses with an interest in advancing their professional practice should consider TU’s FNP pathway: “It will be hard, but so worth it. Don’t let anything stop you. Being a family nurse practitioner in a rural setting and building relationships with my patients and improving their health care outcomes is proving to be the most rewarding experience of my life.”

TU’s doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program gives students the ability to make real and lasting change in their communities. Learn more about the DNP program’s four pathways and how they can empower you to deliver superior care for your patients.

Advanced practice nursing students bring care into the community

Students in The University of Tulsa’s family nurse practitioner (FNP) program receive individual attention and the tools necessary to help them elevate nursing core values to the advanced practice, primary care level. These students are challenged to pay forward their knowledge and skills in assessment, diagnosis and prescribing through ongoing opportunities to make their communities a better place for all.

A high school student sitting on an exam table beside a family nurse practitioner student and a nursing professorOn July 7, a group of first-year FNP students spent the morning providing sports physicals free of charge to students at Will Rogers College High School, a Title 1 institution. This was the third time FNP students had undertaken this service-learning initiative. Because of the COVID-19 health crisis, this latest effort was conducted with full safety protocols in place: masks, gloves and sanitizer for both the nurse practitioner students and the high school students, who also maintained a safe physical distance from each other while waiting their turn.

Increasing access to care

The FNP program’s director, Sheryl Stansifer, launched this initiative two years ago when she learned that many students at Will Rogers were returning to school in August without a completed sports physical. The lack of such a physical, which typically costs $20 or more, means a young person cannot participate in school sports.


Will Rogers’ athletic director, Krystel Markwardt, enthused about the impact of “this wonderful program,” noting that “our students come from diverse economic backgrounds, and their families couldn’t afford to pay for physicals. The FNP students work quickly and efficiently, and their efforts mean our athletes are able to compete in the summer and be prepared for early fall sports.” As Stansifer pointed out, the issue is “bigger than playing basketball or joining the swim team. For many kids, getting involved in sports means they will stay in school and graduate.”

Developing primary care skills

The benefits of this service-learning project are tangible for both the young athletes and the FNP students. Sports physicals are a common component of primary care, and all of TU’s FNP students must complete pediatric assessments and be checked off on sports physicals. Providing sports physicals to the Will Rogers students enables the future FNPs to satisfy that requirement.

family nurse practitioner student holds an instrument as she tests a high school student's visionFrankie Frieda, one of the FNP students who took part in the most recent venture, noted that “this kind of activity is very beneficial for us. It helps us prepare for when we’re doing these things in our own practices and careers. It’s great experience and we’re so happy to be able to come out and do this today.”

In addition, Stansifer commented, delivering these physicals “enables faculty members to assess FNP students’ interactions with the patients/athletes and their ability to complete the forms accurately. Because so many health care teams comprise a variety of professionals, having an opportunity to collaborate with the school’s athletic trainer adds a critical interdisciplinary component to their development.”

Community care

Two FNP students who participated in the Will Rogers project during a previous semester are Alejandra Paredes and Vicky Cha. Originally from Peru (she moved to the United States when she was 13), Paredes has been a registered nurse (RN) since 2014. Cha is a first-generation Hmong-American who grew up in California.

“I always knew my career end-goal was to become a nurse practitioner (NP),” Paredes said. “I wanted to gain experience as an RN so I could become a better NP. I am looking forward to having more autonomy in the care that I deliver to my patients, and it’s important to me to be able to help them focus on health maintenance and disease prevention, while being mindful of individuals’ emotional, physical and spiritual health.” One of Cha’s major goals, meanwhile, is to bring health care to people who are often on the margins, a mission she finds supported at TU. “I admire the TU School of Nursing’s mission to not only cultivate students to become leaders in health care, but also to give back to their communities.”

Vicky Cha and Alejandra Paredes wearing white lab coats and standing side by side
Vicky Cha and Alejandra Paredes

This is something Cha experienced first hand with the Will Rogers service-learning initiative, and which resonated on a personal level. “My parents were Hmong refugees and I grew up with minimal resources. One of the biggest struggles was not being able to take part in sports because my parents couldn’t afford the fees and transportation. Providing free sports physicals for Will Rogers students, many of whom have a background similar to mine, exemplifies one of the most rewarding aspects of nursing: making a positive impact on another person’s life.”

Reflecting on her experience providing physicals for these youth, Paredes arrived at a similar conclusion: “I believe that caring for others, regardless of social, racial or economic background, is a core value of nursing.”

If you are an RN who wants to excel in primary care delivery, consider getting the advanced practice knowledge, skills and experience you need in TU’s family nurse practitioner program.