Nursing Executive Credits Education to Rise Up From High School Dropout to Hospital Vice President

– DNP Prepares Nurses to Assume Leadership Positions and Improve Nursing Education and Health Care Services –

AURORA, Colo. – April 22, 2014 – Illinois native Jerry Spicer never imagined that his career would take him from being a high school dropout to a nurse and then vice president of regional patient care services at Kaiser Permanente, Southern California. Spicer credits his advanced education for his success. Now 24 years later, Spicer is continuing his education to earn his DNP Executive Leadership degree and is using his doctoral work to benefit his organization.

Spicer stumbled into a nursing assistant position at a time when he was considering radiology technology school and said it felt right from the start. After completing his BSN, he landed in the Emergency Department at Decatur Memorial Hospital.

Launching a Robust Career

After working several years in emergency services in Corpus Christi, Texas, Spicer was recruited into a role as director of program development for Columbia Doctors Regional Medical Center, now the Corpus Christi Medical Center, during which time he began thinking about advancing his education.

“I wanted to be able to speak the language of business and converse with the CEOs and CFOs in the organizations where I worked.” Spicer earned a Master of Public Administration with an emphasis in health care from Texas A&M University.

His new credentials opened up a variety of opportunities and Spicer was recruited to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., as the director of emergency services. He quickly worked his way up to administrative director of patient services, VP of patient care services and then chief nursing officer. His time in Colorado also included a three-year post as president of the Colorado Organization of Nurse Leaders.

A New Job, A New Degree

After 12 years at St. Mary’s Hospital, a colleague at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program referred him to an open position as the vice president of regional patient care services at Kaiser Permanente, Southern California. After moving to Los Angeles, he says the timing was right to earn a terminal degree.

“I’d been thinking about a doctorate program for a while and when American Sentinel University came to my hospital to share more about their DNP program, I knew their DNP Executive Leadership was exactly the right fit for me. The residencies, the program itself and the reasonable pricing were all perfect,” he says.

American Sentinel University’s DNP in Executive Leadership program prepares students to speak the language of business in a health care setting by providing knowledge and skills in organizational leadership, health care finance and health care systems transformation and change.

“Our DNP coursework includes practice learning experiences in which students apply ‘real-time’ knowledge and skills they are learning to their immediate organizational or practice environment,” says Michael Graham, Ph.D., RN, PHN, CNP, professor of nursing graduate programs at American Sentinel University. “Among these skills includes assessing the impact of key socioeconomic influences on today’s health care system and the utilization of financial strategies for providing successful change in health care delivery.”

Just a few months after starting the most exciting position of his career, Spicer also began the DNP program at American Sentinel.

An Impactful Capstone Project

Spicer’s DNP Capstone project deals with a timely health care topic: the Affordable Care Act, which is greatly impacting Kaiser Permanente and other organizations.

“The Affordable Care Act was necessary, but hospitals are dealing with the challenge of delivering high-quality and safe patient care in an environment of rising costs and declining reimbursement,” says Spicer. “You need the most competent team leading your hospital.”

Dr. Graham says that a student’s Capstone project represents the application of the culmination of evidence-based quality improvement expertise to the solution of pressing patient care and service delivery problems within their organization.

Spicer’s Capstone project is examining the essential competencies for nurse executives by administering a survey of Kaiser executives and aspiring nurse leaders within his regions. “I really wanted my doctoral work to benefit my organization. Fortunately, I have a supportive organization that understands the importance of this journey,” says Spicer.

In June 2014, he will complete his final DNP course, present his oral defense and attend Commencement ceremonies in Denver. Although his career path has unfolded better than he could have imagined, Spicer admits it wasn’t totally planned out.

“Luckily, I realized early on in my nursing career that if I really wanted to be great at what I do, I should further my education,” he says.

For his culminating educational experience, Spicer adds, American Sentinel has been ideal. “I’ve been very pleased with the education I’ve received. I’m putting a lot in and I’m definitely getting a lot out.”

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership program.

The 42-credit program is open to nursing executives who have at least three years of senior executive experience and a Master’s degree in Nursing. No GRE or other placement testing is required. The next cohort group begins on October 1, 2014 and registration is due in early September.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited online nursing degree programs in nursing, informatics, MBA Health Care, DNP Executive Leadership and DNP Educational Leadership. Its affordable, flexible bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission for the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The DNP program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) of 3343 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 850, Atlanta, Ga., 30326. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). The Accrediting Commission of DETC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.