McNeese’s Graduate Nursing Program Has New Leaders

The graduate nursing program at McNeese State University has a new leadership team. 

Dr. Twila Sterling-Guillory is the new leader of the graduate nursing program at McNeese. Previously, she was the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) coordinator. She earned her doctorate degree from Southern A&M University in 2011. Sterling-Guillory joined the McNeese faculty in 2004 and is a family nurse practitioner for CHRISTUS Hospice.  

“As a graduate of McNeese and a nursing faculty member for 20 years, I am thrilled to be the department head of the graduate nursing program,” Sterling-Guillory said. 

The graduate nursing program is part of McNeese’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. The program offers MSN degrees with concentrations in family nurse practitioner, nursing education and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. McNeese also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in advanced practice psychiatric mental health nursing. 

“The MSN is delivered within the Intercollegiate Consortium for MSN, which is a partnership with three other universities in south Louisiana and is accredited as a consortium,” explained Dr. Ann Warner, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions. 

While earning her master’s degree at McNeese, Sterling-Guillory was a graduate assistant and she says the enthusiasm students had for learning inspired her to teach nursing. 

“I plan to continue to graduate and send out advanced practice nurses, especially for Southwest Louisiana,” Sterling-Guillory said. “Also, I want to increase the number of DNP graduates with the specialty in psychiatric mental health for our community, state and other areas.” 

Dr. Deanna Harless is stepping up as the new MSN coordinator. She earned her doctorate degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2016 and joined the McNeese faculty the same year. Harless is also a nurse practitioner at Geriatric Resources Inc.  

Harless began working as a nurse practitioner in 2000 and witnessed her mentor, the doctor she worked with, teaching his nurses and patients. She found herself teaching others, too. When she had to slow her own practice down, colleagues from McNeese reached out to see if she had an interest in teaching. 

“This is when I realized my next calling. I will always try to role model my mentor when dealing with patients and students,” Harless said. “The best feeling as an instructor is when you see the look in students’ eyes when they grasp the concept of what is being taught.” 

McNeese’s MSN degree is online and provides the knowledge and training necessary for nurses to grow professionally, expand their expertise in the nursing field and be successful on post-graduation certification and license exams. The program features instruction by experienced faculty and hands-on training in clinical settings.  

“A nurse practitioner’s education and training are based on listening closely to a patient’s concerns to provide individualized health care,” said Harless. “In Louisiana, there is a tremendous need in rural and under-served communities. Nurse practitioners can fill that gap and practice to the fullest extent of their education and training.”  

Dr. Sara Jones is the coordinator for the DNP program. She earned her doctorate in nursing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 2010.  

“While we serve students throughout Louisiana and Northeast Texas, there is still a great sense of connection that our students appreciate. As we continue to grow the DNP curriculum, being student-focused is a priority, which is important to me,” explained Jones. “I came into teaching wanting to make an impact that extends outside of the classroom.” 

McNeese’s DNP is an online program that uses a practice-based approach to prepare current advanced practice nurses to care for a patient’s mental health at the highest level of nursing practice. Student projects focus on improving mental health care in practice, as well as with policy, advocacy and dissemination of research. The first students of the program will graduate in December. 

“McNeese’s graduate nursing program is unique in that everyone knows your name. It is small enough, so no one is left behind, but large enough to have top-quality faculty with various specialties. Most students have personal access to their professors and the faculty wants to see students accomplish their goals,” Harless said. “This program truly emulates our educational motto of Excellence With a Personal Touch.” 

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