As a child with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Stephanie Yackel was used to spending time in hospitals by the time she began thinking about a career for herself. “I knew when I graduated high school I was going into nursing,” says Stephanie, a Minnesotan from birth who went on to earn a BSN from Bethel University in 1999. She began her career in the post-surgical unit of United Hospital in St. Paul before getting into oncology at Parker Hughes Cancer Center. All told, Stephanie spent 10 years in oncology there and at Minnesota Oncology Hematology.
From oncology to nurse education
In 2011, Stephanie earned the Master of Arts in Nursing with a leadership and management focus—once again from Bethel University, her BSN alma mater. “I went back for the master’s in hopes of opening up possibilities in my career, but as soon as I graduated, I was recruited by Rasmussen College to become a professor there,” she says. Though she’d never considered teaching before, it seemed like a fortuitous opening that she couldn’t pass up. Stephanie was a nursing instructor for a year before becoming a “dean in training,” splitting her time between teaching and leadership duties. “I was so grateful to have that opportunity.”
Ready for the next education challenge
While serving as dean of the LPN program at Rasmussen’s Eagan campus, Stephanie started exploring doctorate programs. “I was getting to the point in my career where I wanted to continue learning and opening up additional doors,” she says. “I love what I do, but it is good to have options as time goes on.”
A Doctor of Nursing Practice was the perfect type of degree to help her meet her goals. “I did the leadership program while in my master’s, but I wanted to get that educational leadership piece as well,” she says. Stephanie discovered American Sentinel University’s DNP Educational Leadership and knew the program was the right fit for her life. “Working full time and having a big family—my six kids range from age three to age 12—an online program was a must.” She enrolled in August 2015.
Tools to be stronger
As she moved through the program, Stephanie found herself learning so much. “I gained a lot of knowledge about leadership in academia, different strategies and styles, and so many helpful tools I could put right to work,” she says. She used her capstone project to focus on an issue she has witnessed firsthand as a leader: faculty-to-faculty incivility and its impact on faculty’s self-efficacy. “My research gave me much more insight into how to deal with those kinds of situations and help our faculty deal with them too.”
The timing is right for Stephanie to improve her skills. Serving as the dean of the ADN program at Rasmussen’s Bloomington campus since 2013, she also took on the dean of nursing, accelerated BSN program role in January 2017. “Rasmussen took in all of these students from a closing nursing school in the area and placed them where they needed to be in our own BSN program,” she says.
A significant accomplishment
This month, Stephanie completed her final capstone defense and classes. Now that she is graduating, she is looking to the future with excitement. “It feels so wonderful to have achieved this,” she says. “I’m hoping that doors will open when I’m ready to take on new challenges here or elsewhere. I’m very excited to have that DNP next to my name.”
American Sentinel’s DNP Educational Leadership program has certainly met her expectations. “It’s a good program that truly applies to what you do in your job,” she says. As a leader in academia, one unexpected benefit has been the impact on her own faculty. “I hope this shows them that I really do walk the talk. I’ve always tried to lead by example. The DNP has made me a much stronger leader and given me the skills to make our college better and more successful.”
Inspired by Stephanie’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.
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