After 14 years as a nurse educator—11 of them at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas—Linda Earwood decided the time was right to pursue a doctorate.
“I am fortunate to work with some amazing educators at Del Mar, and several had gone back for Ph.D.s,” says Linda, who worked as an LVN and RN before getting the MSN at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi and moving toward teaching.
In 2014, Del Mar’s nursing program chair, Vangie DeLeon, and nursing program director, Jennifer McWha, attended a national conference where American Sentinel University was presenting. Upon their return, they shared information with Linda and the other Del Mar faculty, who took it upon themselves to call American Sentinel for more information.
A cohort experience
“We got a great impression right away,” Linda recalls. As luck would have it, the Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership was just what she and her colleagues were looking for. Soon, five Del Mar College nursing faculty members applied and were accepted into the DNP Educational Leadership. Along with Linda were Mary Borchardt, Sandy Dawod, Floyd Green, and Helen Manibusan. Months later, Darla Green and Casey Moebius also started the program, bringing the total to seven—over one-third of Del Mar’s nursing faculty.
Unwavering support from the top
Vangie, Del Mar College nursing program director, is Linda’s mentor. She had pursued a Ph.D. a few years prior, so when the faculty approached her about pursuing the DNP as a group, she was supportive and excited. “Every one of these faculty members has an exemplary record of achievement and leadership, and one thing that binds them is that they have always been completely committed to student success in our program,” she says. “It’s pretty extraordinary to have this many faculty members pursuing doctorates at the same time.”
The effect on the college’s nursing students, Vangie adds, is tremendous. “I think this absolutely impacts Del Mar College in a great way,” she says. “It increases the quality and caliber of our faculty. What impresses me most is that I’m not raising the bar for them; they raised it for themselves.”
A big year
In the year to come, everyone in the Del Mar group will graduate with the DNP Educational Leadership—some as early as fall 2017, a few thereafter.
Linda says the camaraderie has energized each of one of them. “It’s been incredible,” she admits. “Doing something like this is hard work and could be isolating, but we have each other. Whether we’re discussing something for a class or our capstone projects or bouncing ideas off one another, it makes the experience so much richer and better. As a community college, it is not required that Del Mar College faculty members hold doctorates, but I know that this is giving me a strong foundation to be a better teacher. I’m certain my colleagues feel the same.”
A new educational partnership with American Sentinel
In 2016, Del Mar College pursued an educational partnership with American Sentinel, both for faculty seeking advanced education for themselves and Del Mar students. “We enter into transfer agreements that create pathways for our students to complete their RN degrees at Del Mar and move into BSN programs,” says Vangie. “American Sentinel is a great partner. They send representatives to our campus when we host education fairs for our students. They like to support us, and we appreciate that so much.”
Linda adds that it will not surprise her if additional nursing faculty members follow in the footsteps of her and her colleagues. Her advice? Go for it.
“The DNP is demanding and challenging, but it’s also flexible and very doable,” she says. “American Sentinel has made this goal manageable. With so many of us here doing this, we get the advantage of a built-in support system. You can’t really place a value on that.”
Inspired by the faculty of Del Mar’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.