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Doctoral project leads to job opportunity for new graduate

Hannah Challa wears her white nurse practitioner coat with a stethoscope around her neck.

A Phoenix native, Hannah Challa is graduating with her advanced nursing practice (acute care pediatric nurse practitioner), DNP.

May 05, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Having a job lined up after graduation is great. Landing a job you helped create is phenomenal.

“I am so excited. It just feels like this is where I’m meant to be. This is my passion and I hope to improve the lives of everybody in my care,” Hannah Challa said.

The Phoenix native is graduating this May with her advanced nursing practice (acute care pediatric nurse practitioner), DNP from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Challa already works for Phoenix Children’s, where she started her nursing career seven years ago and where she will continue it but in a new role that she helped design.

“I’ve accepted a position at Phoenix Children’s to become the inpatient complex care program coordinator,” she said. “This is a continuation of my doctoral project.”

The project focused on addressing a gap in care that can happen between the time a child is discharged from the hospital and when they are able to be seen for their follow-up appointment. It’s an issue that Challa has witnessed firsthand. 

“The inpatient setting can’t help you because you’ve been discharged and the outpatient setting can’t help you because they haven’t seen you for your follow-up appointment. So these families are stuck in this limbo which can be potentially life-threatening.”

Creating a position to coordinate that in-between time for patients with complex medical conditions was her solution to closing that gap. Challa’s new role is part of a two-year pilot study so they’ll be collecting data all along the way.

“We’re going to start off in the airway unit and help build this program so there will be a nurse practitioner who follows the child from the inpatient setting and helps them transition to the outpatient setting,” she said.

The goal is to eliminate confusion and medical setbacks for patients and families through this complex care coordination.

Challa says that none of this would have been possible without the DNP program. Below she shares how ASU prepared her to address this challenge and offers words of encouragement for current students.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: I fell in love with pediatrics as a nursing assistant and I knew I wanted to at least be in the hospital setting with kids. I also knew that I wanted to continue to further my education at some point.

After nursing school, I had the privilege to transition into the nurse role at Phoenix Children’s. My passion for pediatrics grew as I served this population. Over the years, I began to identify specific needs of this population which I knew I could address if I became a nurse practitioner. 

This is when I began investigating nurse practitioner programs. I started my search focusing on in-state programs, not even aware that there was a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner program. As soon as I found this program, I knew it was the one ... That was my “aha” moment. I found my profession! And what made me more excited is that it is at my local in-state university! I had found what I am supposed to do and where I am supposed to be!

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I have learned many things while at ASU. One thing I have particularly learned is that your perspective should never remain stagnant. Strive to learn and understand the world with open eyes; don’t assume you have completely understood someone or a problem. Keeping an open mind can change the world.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Danielle Sebbens and Aimee Bucci. They are both pediatric nurse practitioners, they both work at Phoenix Children’s and they’ve just been so helpful! They encourage you, guide you and help you understand what it means to be an NP (nurse practitioner) and it's such a different feeling from the undergraduate experience. In this program, it was all about "let’s work together to help you get to this goal."

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would remind them that, yes, this program is hard but it’s worth it and you are not alone. This isn’t something you do by yourself, you do it as a team and that’s why I love mentoring students. Just being their person to bounce questions off of and to encourage them when they’re not sure if they can do it anymore.

Also, I think one of the biggest things people struggle with right now is fear of failure or making mistakes that they think affects their ability to achieve their dreams. But they just need to continue to pursue their dreams and surround themselves with people who will continue to support them and mentor them.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would develop some sort of sustainable program that could address mental health. I’ve struggled with anxiety in the past and I have families who come in with children who have medical complexities and they’re struggling too. I feel like tackling this issue would be a win-win. It addresses the patient, parent and providers who are burned out and stressed out and are dealing with everything.

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