When Christina Woline arrived at Iowa Wesleyan College as a freshman on a volleyball scholarship, she was contemplating two majors: accounting and nursing. “The day I visited I checked out both departments, and everyone I met in nursing was so warm and welcoming that it made my decision easy,” says Christina, who grew up in a rural farming community in Western Illinois. She moved through the program with just three other students, graduating with the BSN in 2004.
A career at the University of Iowa Healthcare
Christina began her nursing career at the University of Iowa Healthcare (UIHC), to which she was drawn to for its strong reputation as a leading academic medical center. She joined the neuroscience inpatient unit as a staff nurse, inspired to learn more about brain diseases like the aggressive form of brain cancer that her grandmother battled before she passed away. After a few years, she was promoted to assistant nurse manager of the same unit.
After a few years in the role, Christina was approached to take on educating the nursing department on the new Medication Dispensing Cabinets that were being installed throughout the entire hospital. She became the educational lead for this project. As it progressed, she began working on new hire orientation programs splitting time between developing and evaluating staff educational needs and delivering the education itself. During that time, she completed the University of Iowa’s MSN nursing education program as well. “As I’d made that transition from assistant nurse manager to the staff development role for the automated cabinets, I acquired a love of teaching others,” Christina says. “That’s what led me into the master’s: a desire to become a better educator and open up those opportunities.”
During her MSN program, Christina became familiar with the life of a clinical educator at UIHC. As soon as she graduated, she joined UIHC’s Nursing Clinical Education Center as a nursing practice leader—a role she has held ever since. “We look at the macro of the hospital system and oversee the delivery of education to the entire institution,” she says, adding that her department partners with the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing. “My role is onboarding new hires and making sure all staff receive the professional development and educational opportunities they want and need.”
Thanks to luck and fate, Christina says it’s somewhat fortuitous that she ended up in teaching. “There were four of us in my BSN class, so my passion for education and active learning started then,” she says. “It was a fun way to learn and it’s shaped how I try to approach the educational journey for the nurses I work with today.”
Time for a DNP
In early 2016, Christina began to think more seriously about earning a doctorate. “I work at an academic medical center,” she says. “Education is a priority throughout the institution and many of bedside nurses now come in with master’s degrees. If I’m going to continue working as a nursing practice leader, it seems important that I should be prepared at the highest level.” The life timing was right—with her children ages five and three—and Christina began researching practice-focused Doctor of Nursing programs that would offer her the clinical application that a Ph.D. program might not.
Several of her fellow managers at UIHC were enrolled in American Sentinel University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership. “These are people I respect, and they all told me about what a great program American Sentinel’s DNP is, and I too, found it was the best fit to achieve a good work-life-school balance—the time commitment, the number of in-person residencies, and the program structure,” she says. She began the DNP in July 2016. “It has proven to be a great program. Every week you learn something new. The assignments are so great and so applicable. It lights your fire to continue to learn more.”
Strengthening her resume
Christina plans to finish the Doctor of Nursing Practiced Educational Leadership in late 2018. “My hope is to use this DNP to advance professional education at the University of Iowa,” she says. “I want to position myself as a reputable voice for the Department of Nursing as we grow as an institution and expand the Nursing Clinical Education Center, which we’re doing right now. What I’m learning today definitely applies to the job I’m in, which I absolutely love, but if another opportunity opened up one day, I know that having an advanced terminal degree will give me a seat at the table.”
Inspired by Christina’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.