rural health care - Oxley College of Health Sciences

rural health care

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.