Clare Benson admits that she did not have a “traditional path” to healthcare leadership. With a father who held many different jobs, Clare moved often and attended 25 different schools throughout her childhood.
A high school dropout, she moved to Kansas as an adult and took a nurse aide course at the encouragement of her sister. “I met my husband in that class,” recalls Clare. “We put each other through school and have been married 45 years now.” The couple had three children and eventually Clare returned to school for her nursing diploma in 1980, the BSN in 1991 and the MSN in 1998.
A variety of clinical experiences
As a nurse aide, Clare worked in the newborn nursery and the post-surgery unit. Once she became an RN, she worked in the post-anesthesia care unit and after getting the BSN, the recovery room, catheterization lab and interventional radiology lab. In the middle of it all, she was deployed (she’s a military reservist) during the Gulf War.
In the late 1990s, Clare became a clinical informaticist and earned an MSN. “I was bitten by the informatics bug at a time when not much was automated or electronic,” she says. Clare joined Cerner Corporation in Kansas City as a senior solution consultant in critical care in 2001 and worked her way up—other than a two-year departure to be a consultant—over the next 14 years.
Building her skills with a doctorate
In 2013, Clare started thinking about earning a doctorate. “I credit my husband with sparking that in me,” she says. “For so much of our marriage, we supported each other as lifelong learners. Several Cerner executives I’d worked with had gotten their doctorates, and that inspired me to think about it. I had the internal motivation and the external support.”
Clare researched online programs and found American Sentinel University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership. She quickly discovered it was the right program for her and started in 2013.
Navigating life changes
In 2015, Cerner offered Clare an early retirement buyout and she decided to take it. She accepted a director of clinical informatics job in the Los Angeles area, where she still had family, but decided that Kansas was a better long-term fit. She returned in 2017.
At the same time, her husband’s health was deteriorating. Rather than take a new position once she moved back to Kansas City, Clare stepped away from the workforce to take care of him, the person who has always been her biggest cheerleader and supporter. As things worsened, she also took time off from American Sentinel.
American Sentinel: support in multiple ways
The practice-focused course work and professors at American Sentinel have impressed Clare but it’s more than the academic experience she has appreciated. “The university has been supportive of me in multiple ways, bending over backwards to help me get to the end,” she says. “Life happens. I have been impressed by American Sentinel team and grateful that they’re so understanding about me needing to step away. It makes me that much more eager to complete my final classes and finally earn that DNP.”
Once Clare graduates, she wants to put her experience and education to work as a volunteer. “The DNP really turned on my interest in policy,” she says. “I’d love to have an impact on healthcare in that way during this phase of my career. I know the DNP credential will help me do that.”
Inspired by Clare’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.