Shawn Stanghellini followed his sister’s path into nursing, saying he was always driven by “a desire to help others.” He earned the BSN at Emmanuel College in 1997 and began his career in critical care at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, a worldwide leader and major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. In his 19 years there, he has spent time in the step-down and intensive care units, neurosurgical intensive care unit and surgical intensive care unit.
Shawn met his wife, also a nurse, at Brigham and Woman’s as well. “It feels like home in many ways,” he says. “I love what I do and I’ve developed great long-term relationships with the people I work with. There’s always been a lot of opportunity to develop as a professional.”
A dream to teach
That passion for learning eventually led Shawn to seek a master’s degree. “After all these years at the bedside, I’m eager to do some teaching and share what I’ve learned and I knew I needed an MSN for that,” he says. “I felt that no matter what I did, an MSN would help me provide better patient care and make me an asset as a team member.” He started researching online MSN programs and discovered American Sentinel’s MSN, nursing education. “American Sentinel stood out,” he says. “I appreciated the accreditation, I liked the look of the nursing education curriculum, and I felt the support from everyone there from the beginning.” In July 2014, Shawn enrolled in the MSN program.
Focused and driven
Reaching the MSN finish line was no small feat, but Shawn was diligent about his schedule. “I have a beautiful wife and three awesome kids, and their needs are my priority, so to do this without impacting our family life, I got up most days at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to do my school work,” he says. An athlete who has completed multiple Ironmans, taking care of himself physically was also important. But most of all, Shawn says, the flexibility to go to school “from anywhere” was key. “I brought my homework with me everywhere. My kids are active in sports and music. While they did their thing, I did mine.” In May 2016, Shawn graduated with the MSN, nursing education specialization—earning a 4.0 GPA.
An invaluable experience
The MSN exceeded Shawn’s expectations, so he decided to also pursue the Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership. “The MSN taught me so much about why we do what we do as nurses,” he says. “I even had the chance to do my capstone on improving patient outcomes through the development of critical thinking in nurses,” he says, adding that he presented the topic at the 2016 International Caritas Consortium. “I liked the idea of continuing to grow in the DNP program.” Shawn enrolled in fall 2016 and expects to graduate in 2019.
A new opportunity: clinical nurse educator
Amid his educational pursuits, Shawn has already started taking steps to achieve his goal to teach. He accepted a traveling scholar position with Curry College, a liberal arts school outside of Boston—a role in which he will teach legal issues in nursing. Having been a legal nurse consultant for 20 years, he is well suited for the job. As he was finishing the MSN, Shawn also accepted a part-time clinical educator role at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, a 155-bed, acute care community hospital. He works on the medical-surgical floor.
A family endeavor
Shawn’s wife is also earning a DNP and will graduate in spring 2018. “I’ve learned in life that you need the support of others to achieve anything,” he says. “We try to be that support for each other. I do think us doing this influences our kids’ thoughts about education. No matter what, you must never stop learning and growing.”
The DNP Educational Leadership is giving Shawn the skills he seeks to influence the nurses he teaches. “It’s all about taking evidence-based research and implementing it at the bedside,” he says. “Helping nurses make those connections at the bedside is really important. My other hope is that with the DNP, I’ll have the knowledge of research-based strategies to collaborate with leadership to bring change to nursing. Whatever I do in the future, I want it to benefit patients.”
Inspired by Shawn’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.