DNP Student Emerges as Nursing Leader in Home State of Virginia

– DNP Student’s Capstone Project Positions Virginia as Frontrunner for Achieving the Institute of Medicine, Future of Nursing Recommendations –

AURORA, Colo. – October 7, 2013 – Throughout her 46-year career, Virginian Shirley Gibson has been passionately involved in moving the nursing profession forward. And now thanks to course work in her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Executive Leadership program, Gibson is helping to position the state of Virginia as the leader for achieving recommendations set forth in the Institute of Medicine’s ‘Future of Nursing’ report.

In October 2010, the Institute of Medicine released its groundbreaking report calling for nurses to play a bigger role in tomorrow’s health care delivery landscape, titled ‘The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.’ Immediately, she knew that she wanted Virginia to be the first state to carry out the recommendations of the campaign and achieve 80 percent baccalaureate prepared nurses by 2020.

Gibson gets excited about advocacy for nurses and patients and has long been dedicated to making a difference in the nursing vocation. After starting out as a staff nurse in 1967, Gibson worked her way up through the years and held various executive roles at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System.

And when she isn’t leading patient care at her hospital, she’s busy with various voluntary leadership roles. This includes serving as president of the Virginia Nurses Foundation, past president of the Virginia Nurses Association, board member of the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority, and lead for the Virginia Action Coalition. She was also a member of the Governor’s Health Reform Advisory Council.

Achieving a Goal

Gibson was already highly educated with a diploma in nursing, B.S. in health care management and M.S. in health administration, but she knew the time was right to pursue a terminal degree and a doctorate degree was at the top of her list of life goals.

So when a colleague told her in 2010 about American Sentinel University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership, Gibson was ready to sign up.

“This program was perfect for what I wanted to achieve and for where I am in my career,” she says. “I want to ensure that I have the credentials that speak to the magnet organization in which I work.”

When Gibson started the DNP program at American Sentinel, she was already in leadership positions with her health care organization and the Virginia Nurses Association, so the DNP Executive Leadership Specialty Track coursework was the perfect way for her to complement this experience to advance her nursing career.

“Earning her DNP provides Shirley with the theoretical knowledge to support her experiential leadership knowledge,” says Judy Burckhardt, Ph.D., MAEd, MSN, RN, dean, nursing at American Sentinel University. “It is essential for health care that stellar nursing leaders, like Shirley, have doctoral degrees. They are essential to the future of nursing and the entire health care industry because they are the thought leaders and change agents that will lead the charge to change the face and shape of health care going forward.”

Making Her Mark and Raising Her Voice

As then-president of the Virginia Nurses Association, she spearheaded the creation of the Virginia Action Coalition, which was accepted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in February 2011, making them one of the first in the country. As an action coalition, they capture best practices, determine research needs, track lessons and identify replicable models.

Gibson refers to this as her legacy work.

Dr. Burckhardt says that Gibson’s Capstone Project, ‘Key Considerations to Develop Articulation Agreements for Education Progression in Virginia,’ will provide educational leaders in Virginia with information obtained from four states about how they developed articulation agreements for successful educational progression in their states and keep with her mission to make Virginia a frontrunner for carrying out the recommendations set forth in the Future of Nursing report.

“The data she will share from the study with the Virginia Action Coalition Education Progression Workgroup will stimulate dialogue that results in achievement of the Institute of Medicine, Future of Nursing recommendation of 80 percent baccalaureate prepared nurses by 2020,” says Dr. Burckhardt.

Sharing the Work of Virginia Nurses

In May 2013 during the Week of the Nurse, Gibson was invited to write a column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and shared the Virginia Action Coalition’s work to educate more nurses and develop effective nursing leaders.

“Nurses in Virginia are finding our voices, working with new partners and affecting real change that will mean better health outcomes for Virginians,” she says.

Gibson’s efforts through the coalition inform much of the work she is doing in her DNP.

“Not only are the coalition efforts crossing over to my doctoral studies, I am making a difference for the Virginia nursing workforce at the same time,” she says.

Although she will be 67-years-old when she graduates in 2013, she feels the knowledge she is gaining through the DNP will benefit her in a multitude of ways.

“The DNP program has outstanding faculty who have really challenged our ways of thinking and helped us view the complex health care world we are in today in a whole new light,” Gibson says. “This program is helping me be a better leader in my organization and in my state.”

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice 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. No GRE or other placement testing is required.

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 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.