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Outstanding graduate student

Beck Hruby

Becky Hruby didn’t see this one coming.

When her name was called at the August 2014 pinning ceremony as the outstanding graduate student in her doctor of nurse practitioner class, Hruby (pronounced Ruby) may have been the most surprised one in the audience. The announcement was not a surprise to associate professor Jo Voss.

Voss, the West River instructor who nominated Hruby, said the Spearfish native could qualify for graduate student of the decade.

“I nominated her for that award because of her evidence-based practice project. I have sat on several committees and I have never seen such a project. It was far above any other projects I have seen. She was already working at the level of a doctorate-prepared nurse practitioner,” Voss said.

Hruby’s project was titled, "The Assessment, Identification and Management of Sleep Apnea Perioperatively."

How the 30-year-old, SDSU-trained nurse went about the project left Voss amazed.

“Becky gained the trust and support of the nurses, physicians and management at the health-care facility (Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital). She did an amazing job in communication with other health-care providers,” Voss said. “Becky was credible, she was knowledgeable” about sleep apnea.

One would have never thought that the project was Hruby’s first experience as an expert on sleep apnea, Voss said.

Nearly 1,800 patients screened
The study consisted of sleep apnea screening for 1,772 patients who visited Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital between February and April. All patients age 18 or older who were entering the hospital participated in the survey, which was implemented into the hospital’s electronic intake assessment.

“If they met certain risks factors, like age, weight and snoring, we then suggested they get a formal sleep study done,” Hruby explained.

The fact that the hospital permitted screening of all its patients for Hruby’s study attests to her networking, credibility and concern for patients, Voss said. “She’s an amazing communicator and very trustworthy. The staff felt it was an important project, too.”

On top of all this, Hruby secured a $2,500 grant from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners to cover costs. That funded a research assistant to compile data, costs for those requiring an overnight stay and two $25 gift certificates to thank the nurses for their help.

Study results meet expectations
Hruby said survey results matched expectations.

Of the 1,772 screenings, 13% previously had been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Another 10% were found to be at risk. “We then suggested they get a formal sleep study done” in which they were connected to monitoring devices, Hruby said.

That part of the testing was done by a sleep specialist physician with whom Hruby was working.

In her research for the study, Hruby found “a study showing that people who have sleep apnea but don’t realize it are more at risk to have a heart attack as well as to stop breathing at night after having surgery.”

There was no cost to the study participants. “It was a great service to the patient,” Voss said.

Began DNP program in 2010
Hruby, of Sioux Falls, entered the bachelor’s to DNP program in 2010. After earning her BSN at State in 2008, Hruby worked at a cardiac care unit in Arizona for a year. When she moved back to Sioux Falls, Hruby went to work at Sioux Falls Surgical Hospital in the post-anesthesia care unit.

She worked there throughout the 4½-year graduate school program, finishing with a 3.97 GPA.

In June 2014, Hruby participated in the Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students Program at Custer Regional Hospital and Clinic.

In June, she was chosen to present a poster on the sleep apnea project at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Conference in New Orleans, where more than 5,000 nurse practitioners will be present. “It is an honor to be chosen,” she said.

Voss noted, “She was sought for employment by several hospitals because of her involvement in this sleep apnea project.”