When Erin-Joy Bjorge was a college student at Seattle Pacific University, an advisor encouraged her to pursue nursing—and she never looked back. “The light bulb went on at 18 years old when a great professor and mentor had a big impact on me, causing me to think about going into nursing education myself,” says Erin-Joy, who grew up in the Seattle area. After graduating with the BSN in 1987, she joined the university’s first cohort of the new MSN program in 1989 and worked in intensive care/critical care at Northwest Hospital in Seattle.
Next stop: higher education
In 1991, as she was finishing up her MSN final thesis, Seattle Pacific hired Erin-Joy as a clinical instructor. “It was always wanted I wanted to do and I was thrilled,” she says. Six years into her teaching career, Erin-Joy took a break from the workforce to turn her attention to raising her two young sons. But just two years later, in 1999, she was recruited by the recently retired dean of Seattle Pacific—the same advisor, professor, and mentor who had nudged her toward the field—to help start a new baccalaureate nursing program at Northwest University. She couldn’t refuse.
A longtime dream
In 2015, Erin-Joy decided the timing was right to go back to school for a doctorate. “Since my BSN, I’d had it in my head that one day I would pursue a terminal degree,” she says. But life kept the plan at bay, with Erin-Joy’s career on the rise and her focus remaining firmly on her young family. Eventually, she decided it was “now or never,” but she did create a must-have list of requirements. “I needed a program that was 100% online, with a cohorted structure that ensured I wouldn’t be in school for an endless amount of time.”
Most importantly, Erin-Joy, a Certified Nurse Educator, sought a doctorate that focused on education. “When I was searching, I came across American Sentinel University, and saw that they had created a doctorate that offered disciplines in educational and executive leadership, in the wake of the Institute of Medicine’s report on the importance of nursing leaders pursuing advanced education,” she says. Erin-Joy liked everything about the Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership. She applied, was accepted and began her first course in July 2016. Also, after many years as an adjunct, she became a full-time faculty member at Northwest University in 2017. Today, Erin-Joy is the coordinator for the online RN to BSN program.
A personal goal
Erin-Joy’s goal of earning a doctorate was largely personal—but a turn of events made her timing for doing so even better. In the fall of 2017, the dean at Northwest University announced his retirement. After careful consideration, Erin-Joy decided to apply for the position, which required a doctorally prepared candidate. She starts as associate dean on July 1, 2018, and will transition to dean in January 2019 after she completes her DNP in December 2018.
“I’m excited, nervous and everything in between,” Erin-Joy says. “I’m thrilled about the opportunity, and now only wish I’d started school six months earlier!” With Northwest’s plans to launch an MSN program within the year, she’s looking forward to the next phase of her career as an administrator. “I’m very glad I decided to get the DNP at American Sentinel. It’s a great program for someone who works full time and offers the opportunity to connect with other professionals across the country. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the experience.”
Inspired by Ellen’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.