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Riley named UAH Alumni of Achievement honoree for College of Nursing

HUNTSVILLE — Dr. Marilyn Riley has been selected as the 2022 Alumni of Achievement award winner for the College of Nursing at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Dr. Marilyn Riley (Michael Mercier/UAH)

Riley is the chief nursing officer in IU Health Frankfort Hospital in Frankfort, Ind. She completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice doctorate at UAH in 2020. The DNP is a terminal nursing degree designed to produce leaders in nursing who demonstrate the highest level of nursing expertise.

Whether in a clinical setting or leadership role, the degree has a goal of influencing health-care outcomes through organizational leadership, health policy implementation and direct patient care.

Riley already held a Ph.D. in a non-nursing field but said she chose to pursue the DNP to support her career goals in her position as an executive nurse leader to become an influencer of nursing practice. The full-time program at UAH is designed for working nurses, and the honoree completed her degree in two and a half years as a remote online student.

“When I was looking for a Doctorate in Nursing Practice program, I did a lot of research into a lot of different programs to see how the program was delivered, and the program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville was really the one that best fit my needs, and that’s why I chose it,” Riley said. “To get into the Doctor of Nursing program, you have to be a nurse practitioner, which I’ve been for 25 years.

“The program really built on that expertise.”

The UAH DNP program is specifically designed for nurse practitioners who can focus their expertise in the practice environment and on translating evidence-based care into practice.

Riley chose workplace violence as a special area of emphasis, as noted in her DNP project, titled, “Reducing Violence in the Emergency Department, Improving Perception of Safety: An Aggression Prevention Team Approach.”

“Acts of aggression towards nurses has reached never-before-seen levels in Emergency
Departments across the United States, and it increases by 15% or more every year,”
she said. “Nurses and ED staff are subjected to violent patients, daily. Nurses often do not feel they have the skills to intervene safely when patientsbecome aggressive, and these behaviors can escalate to harmful levels. Nurses must have a safe environment to practice; therefore, it is imperative violence stops.

“This DNP project implements an Aggression Prevention Team to respond in the ED when patients or visitors become aggressive and to improve the nurses’ perception of safety.”

Nursing has been a central focus for Riley from very early on.

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a nurse, so that was always really kind of a calling,” she said. “I was inspired as a young child by my great aunt, Marilyn, whom I am named after. She was a true role model in her nurturing presence, with so much care, compassion and kindness. She worked in an Emergency Department as a secretary.

“My calling was to be a nurse and to emulate my great aunt’s kindness and compassion for others.”

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