Some might call Susan Weiner a bit of a pioneer. After all, she is the first person at American Sentinel University to simultaneously pursue an MSN degree online and a DNP.
A 35-year veteran in the nursing industry, Susan has spent most of her career at Roanoke, Va.-based Carilion Clinic. Among other accomplishments, she helped establish a renal transplant program and an in-house diabetes education program—regarded as one of the best in the nation.
Since 2005, she has been Carilion’s senior director of medical/surgical nursing. But in 2012, Susan learned that because her hospital is designated as Magnet, to remain as a senior director, she needed to have a master’s degree or higher in nursing. The Master of Health Administration she earned in 2007 wasn’t sufficient.
Seeking a Higher Level of Education
In 2011, Susan had started an MSN program at a local college, but after evaluating, felt it was a better choice to invest her time and money in a DNP—and enhance and strengthen her leadership skills. “I wanted and needed a higher level degree of nursing,” she says. She followed in the footsteps of a colleague, who was in the middle of American Sentinel University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership. Susan enrolled and started her course work in fall 2011. After beginning the program, she received another call from her chief nursing officer (CNO). Magnet requirements dictated she needed a BSN or MSN to remain a senior director.
Rather than switch programs, Susan decided she wanted to get both degrees. “I had already made great connections with my peers during the DNP residency, and I didn’t want to leave the program,” says Susan. “American Sentinel was kind enough to accommodate me so I could take the right courses at the right times and make it work to earn both degrees.” In December 2012, Susan completed her MSN degree online. Her goal is to complete the DNP in February 2014.
Nowhere but American Sentinel
Her schedule may sound exhausting, but Susan says the support of her American Sentinel student success advisor, CNO, professors and DNP peers have made it possible. “I don’t know that I could have done what I’ve done at any other university,” says Susan. “American Sentinel is the place to go. At every opportunity, I encourage our nurses to check out American Sentinel. The school supports its students in every way. The MSN and DNP are great programs—and an incredible value.” Thanks to Susan, Carilion Clinic recently entered an educational partnership with American Sentinel.
Though she did not plan on going back to college so late in her career, Susan says things have fallen into place perfectly. “I feel like the DNP is the ultimate in nursing education,” she says. “It will carry me through to retirement. I also feel I’ve achieved a big life goal.”
A Future in the Classroom
A recently established life goal, Susan says, is to teach—online, of course. “I feel like I have so much experience, and now I have the education to go with it. I think I would make a really good professor. I’ve never thought about it until my American Sentinel experience, but I love this online process. I love the idea of teaching and sharing.”