Four years ago, Leslie Gembol began thinking seriously about earning a doctorate. The regional chief nursing officer (CNO) of Baylor Scott & White Health in Round Rock, Texas, where she still works today, Leslie held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, but felt that further education was important.
“I think it’s imperative in an executive role to have a doctorate and earn that credential,” she says. “I wanted to be a role model for my team and have the staff look at me and believe that they can achieve their goals. I want them to see me going to school to benefit our organization and myself and be motivated to do the same.” At the encouragement of Baylor Scott & White’s system CNO, Rosemeary Luquire, Leslie began her search for the right program. As a mother, wife and busy executive, an online program was most appealing, but she wanted to find the best fit.
Inspired by a friend’s story
One program on Leslie’s radar was American Sentinel University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership. When she received an email from the university one day sharing one student’s story, it felt like fate pushing her in a direction. “There in my inbox was an email with a story about Jerry Spicer, a longtime friend of mine whom I worked with years ago in Illinois and who also recruited me to be the director of emergency services at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Memorial in Corpus Christi in 1995,” she says. “I called him up and talked to him about the DNP program. It was meant to be. Someone I know well and trust had a great experience at American Sentinel, and the program was just what I was looking for, too.” In August 2015, Leslie started the DNP Executive Leadership.
A career on the rise
With a clinical background in emergency care, Leslie has been in executive roles since 2003, when she became the CNO for CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi- South. She held several leadership roles within the CHRISTUS Spohn system, including CNO of another CHRISTUS Health facility, before moving to Round Rock and joining Baylor Scott & White in 2013. Along the way, she taught as an adjunct faculty member at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi.
At Baylor Scott & White, she has had great opportunity. “When I started, I was the CNO for Round Rock Hospital, but slowly picked up other facilities as well as nursing practice and education for all our ambulatory care sites,” says Leslie, who is now the regional CNO. “We just acquired a facility last fall and recently broke ground on a facility that will open in 12 months. Our new cancer center is scheduled to open this summer.” The DNP Executive Leadership, she adds, will help her better support her nursing staff—thereby supporting patients.
Honing her expertise
While pursuing the DNP is largely a personal goal, Leslie hopes to get more involved in state and local nursing organizations, such as the Texas Nurses Association. “I want to be seen as a credible leader here in Texas and an expert in the field,” she says. “One of the best parts of this program is that you learn a lot about evidence-based practice at organizations around the country and legislative efforts to improve patient care in the U.S. Everything I’m learning applies to my own system, and I know it will help me when I become more involved with the profession. For me, the DNP is proving to be a great investment.”
Inspired by Leslie’s story? A DNP with a specialization in executive leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in the healthcare system. 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.