The daughter of a Naval officer, Angela Sheaffer grew up living all over the United States and Europe before settling on the East Coast as a teen. “During those years, my mom was having my two sisters and one brother and several medical issues, so I was often exposed to hospitals,” says Angela. “I found the medical field fascinating and knew pretty early on that I would likely end up becoming a nurse or a doctor.”
Angela gained experience as a Certified Nurse Assistant for five years before earning the associate degree of nursing from the University of the State of New York, Regents College, in 1995. She started out working in medical/surgical nursing and spent 10 years with Culpepper Regional Hospital in Virginia, where she worked her way up to clinical nursing supervisor. For four years, Angela worked at Culpepper as well as Mary Washington Hospital, a nearby medical center that was starting a trauma program in a surgical intensive care unit. “It was a great opportunity to do something different, and I gained new skills there working with critically ill patients recovering from open heart surgery, septic shock, and everything in between.” In 2009, she moved to Mary Washington full time.
Furthering her education
While at Mary Washington, Angela went back to school online for the RN to MSN in nursing education at Walden University. “Throughout my career up to that point, I found myself really enjoying teaching—patients, their families, and my other team members,” she says. “Earning a master’s with an educational focus made sense, as I started envisioning myself teaching full time down the road.” She graduated with the MSN in 2013, and within a few months, Angela became an adjunct nursing professor at Germanna Community College, where a fellow nurse from Mary Washington was also an adjunct.
When another colleague told Angela about the Doctor of Nursing program she was pursuing at American Sentinel University, she was intrigued. “I started researching the program and began thinking about it, and realized I probably wasn’t done with my education,” she says. “I love learning and I loved the idea of earning a doctorate.” By October 2014, Angela was enrolled in her first class in the DNP Educational Leadership.
A move to full-time teaching
Just as she was starting the DNP, Angela was offered a full-time position at Germanna Community College. She accepted the role in fall 2014. “I love seeing students come in knowing very little and reaching graduation knowing so much,” she says. “It is my goal to challenge them to think like nurses and continue their quest for lifelong education.”
Though the DNP is not required of her, Angela says it will support her as Germanna strives to reach its goals. “There is talk of developing a BSN program here, which would require a certain number of doctorate-prepared nurses,” she says. “Getting this doctorate is something that will be good for my career, and my dean and the leadership have been very supportive of that.”
Since her first class, Angela hasn’t taken a “break or a breath,” continuing to work full time at Germanna, where she teaches and runs the lab. Yet, the DNP is achievable, she says. “I feel very comfortable at American Sentinel,” she says. “It’s a great, supportive environment. I’ve been pushed to give my very best, too, which has been awesome.”
Specifically, Angela was encouraged by her capstone chair to bolster her project on evaluating first semester nursing students’ perception of the usefulness of electronic documentation systems. Though she graduated from the DNP Educational Leadership in December 2016, she decided to continue her work by collecting data on a cohort of students for two years to determine how technology impacts them as students and new nurses. “It’s exciting to see how this DNP capstone is translating into something bigger. I’m grateful that my chair encouraged me to make this most of it.”
Equipped for the best
Now beginning her fifth school year at Germanna, Angela is excited about what the future holds. “There are many changes happening in the Virginia Community College System and in nursing in general,” she says. Whatever the future holds, Angela is ready. “Education is where I will stay. If opportunities arise for me to share my knowledge, I’m open to and ready for them.”
Inspired by Angela’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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