Robin Whitney reflects on how UC Davis nursing program changed her life

Robin Whitney, left, meets with staff member Benjamin Link in a conference roomRobin Whitney, a 2016 graduate of the Doctor of Philosophy Degree program, left, reviews reports with Benjamin Link, a research analyst at the Family Caregiving Institute at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing

Robin Whitney uses the skills she learned at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis every day.

A 2016 graduate from the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program, she’s now an associate professor at the Valley Foundation School of Nursing at San Jose State University and coordinator of the school’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

“I teach students to make evidence-based practice changes in a practice environment,” Whitney said. “That really aligns with the vision of systems change set by the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It enabled me to think about things on a systems level rather than how we’re normally trained at the beginning of our career.”

A decade into her nursing career, Whitney witnessed the persistent challenges in health care. That prompted her to pursue a Ph.D. She chose UC Davis to make bold system change.

“That’s what you learn at the school, to really aim high in your efforts to try and make those changes even when they see impossible,” Whitney explained.

Preparing faculty for four-year institutions and developing innovative nursing science researchers are goals of the School of Nursing Ph.D. program. For Whitney, the evolution is constant.

“I wanted to be involved in some kind of change in health care but didn’t know what that was,” she explained. “The School of Nursing helps you to operationalize that. It’s not something you achieve in an instant, but over the course of your career you take the next step and the next step to move your idea to a research project to something that translates into practice or has policy implications.”

Whitney’s current research focuses on supporting individuals who live with serious illness, particularly cancer survivors, and also supporting their family caregivers. She now brings that expertise — and, once again, the skills she learned in graduate school — to the Family Caregiving Institute at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing as a faculty affiliate.

She credits the interprofessional collaboration she experienced and mentorship she received with how she prepares future nurses for an ever-changing health care system.

“We have to learn to think about things differently and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing really helped me do that,” she said. “It gave me a whole different direction to my nursing career. It changed my life doing this program.”

Robin Whitney reflects on how UC Davis PhD nursing program changed her life.