Chatham University

Innovation and Research

Doctor of Nursing Program

Dr. Dorothy Mathers helped achieve standardized care of patients with central lines

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Chatham University allowed alumna Dr. Dorothy (Dottie) Mathers, DNP ('11) to dedicate her capstone project to the examination of a healthcare issue that had concerned her for years.

"I have access to different healthcare institutions and have always wondered why policy regarding the flushing of central lines differed between each hospital, and how these varying policies related to best practice," says Dottie, a faculty member in the baccalaureate nursing program at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa. "Certain hospitals would use heparinized saline, while others would use non-heparinized saline to flush central lines." (Heparin is an injectable anticoagulant.) The outcome of her research on that topic was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of the Association for Vascular Access.

The DNP capstone project requires students to tackle an evidence-based practice (EBP) change, which relies on the integration of an individual's clinical expertise with the best available external scientific evidence, as well as patient preferences and values. Beginning with a literature review, followed by a detailed plan for practice change, and culminating with the implementation and evaluation of an actual project, students who complete Chatham's DNP capstone project emerge with results that can immediately improve nursing care provided throughout the world.

Dottie's extensive literature review showed that non-heparinized saline was just as effective as heparinized saline in maintaining patency (openness) of central lines. Not only was non-heparinized saline effective, Dottie found that it was also safer for the patient. Dottie also addressed how to improve patency in the central line through proper flushing technique, which she determined is "dependent upon the kind of cap that is on the end of the central line."

She shared findings with administration at Susquehanna Health, where she works per diem. Extremely receptive, the hospital wasted no time in changing their policy to reflect the outcome of Dottie's evidence-based practice change project.

As an educational component to her capstone project, Dottie spoke to approximately 120 registered nurses at Susquehanna Health and instructed them on the reason behind the policy change, as well as on the proper flushing technique for central lines. "We have to reinforce education for the staff nurses to make sure we are adhering to the proper procedures," says Dottie.

Dottie's evidence-based practice change project is just one example of how Chatham University students can work to improve patient care far and wide throughout the course of the DNP program.

For more profiles of Chatham DNP graduates making their mark on the nursing world, visit


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