When Linda Mueller was growing up, she was inspired by her mother, who dreamed of becoming a nurse but had left school at age 16 to help support her family of eight. “She used to talk to me about nursing all the time,” recalls Linda, who grew up in Rochester, New York.
By the time she reached college age, Linda was certain of her path. She pursued a BSN at the University of Rochester—encouraged by her parents to go for a bachelor’s instead of an associate degree—and started her career as a charge nurse in pediatrics and medical-surgical nursing. Two years into her career, her mom ended up getting a GED and an associate degree in nursing herself.
A move into nursing education
Linda gained experience in a range of areas, including surgical intensive care and infection control. When she had her first child, she turned her attention to motherhood but knew she would eventually return to the workforce. She decided to earn an MSN to bolster her resume and graduated from Syracuse University in 1988.
Linda’s first teaching position was at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, where she taught senior-level medical-surgical nursing classes. She also gained experience administering the clinical performance exam to Registered Nurse candidates in New York and as a clinical instructor at Syracuse University.
A move south
In 1995, Linda and her husband left the cold winters behind and moved to Virginia. She joined the faculty of Southside Regional Medical Center School of Nursing for five years and later took teaching roles in the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System and Bon Secours Richmond Health System. In 2006, Linda landed at John Tyler Community College, where she is today. An associate professor in the nursing program, Linda teaches new nursing students, both online and in the classroom.
“I love the student population here,” she says. “We have a high number of underrepresented students and many first-generation college students. I was the first female in my family to attend college, so I often think about how I’m giving students the opportunity to create better lives for themselves—just like my own education did for me.”
Bettering herself once again
It was in that vein that Linda decided in 2016 to pursue a doctorate. “For 10 years, I’ve considered it, but as I’m getting closer to retirement I’m realizing that teaching online is something I could do forever. A Doctor of Nursing Practice would help ensure that opportunities are always open to me.”
Linda started looking around at programs and even attended an open house for one at a university in her area. However, when a colleague at John Tyler shared that she was pursuing the DNP Educational Leadership at American Sentinel, Linda was intrigued. “I looked it up on a Friday and within a week, I was in love,” she says. “It’s a perfect fit. The courses, the workload for a working adult, and the program structure—overall, the program meets my needs and my goals.” Linda started the DNP in February 2016.
In her first 10 months of the program, Linda says she has gained knowledge every single week. “The weekly assignments and discussions are so enlightening, I’m absorbed for hours,” she says. “I’ve been in nursing all of my adult life and I continue to be surprised by what I’m learning.” Linda’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on those around her as well. She is now among five John Tyler Community College faculty members who are pursuing doctorates.
When she graduates in 2018, Linda says she will feel proud and confident. “I’m fulfilling my lifelong dream of getting a terminal degree,” she says. “I can continue doing what I love but in a different way. I’ll be able to work full time or part time, teach online or in person, and who knows what else. Having the DNP lays the groundwork for the future.”
Inspired by Linda’s story? A DNP with a specialization in educational leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in nursing education programs. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.