A can-opening mishap while working at a restaurant sent Jerry Flores to the hospital at the age of 18, and changed the course of his life. “While I was being treated, a patient came in who was in full cardiac arrest, and the door to my room was open,” recalls Jerry, who was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. “I watched nurses and doctors resuscitate this patient and I was completely amazed.” Jerry left the hospital that day declaring he would become a nurse one day. He never looked back.
Starting from square one
The road to get there wasn’t easy. As a high school dropout, Jerry earned the GED and started out as a Nurse Aide to get his feet wet. After eight years building his experience and his confidence, he decided it was time for nursing school. He earned an associate degree at Laredo Community College, followed by a BSN from Texas A&M International University in Laredo in 2000 and an MSN in 2002 from Texas A&M in Corpus Christi.
Jerry gained clinical experience primarily in the surgery area. He spent many years at Mercy Regional Medical Center, working his way up to director of critical care services and pulmonary care services. In 2003, the ownership and hospital name changed to Laredo Medical Center, where Jerry served as assistant chief nursing officer. Then it was Community Health System’s South Texas Regional Medical, where Jerry had the opportunity to be its chief nursing officer and assistant chief executive officer.
Next step: doctorate
In 2012, Jerry joined Community Health System at the corporate level as division II project chief nursing officer. He is responsible for his division’s 40 hospitals in eight states. “Honestly, as the environment has become more competitive, I started thinking how important it was for me to be working with the latest knowledge,” says Jerry. He searched for clinical-focused doctorate degrees and discovered American Sentinel University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership. “I like how relevant this program is to what I do each day. It pairs nicely with my experience and is very in line with what I do.”
In fall 2016, Jerry took his first class. The self-paced structure was a perfect fit with his busy executive schedule. “American Sentinel’s flexibility is a great aspect,” he says. “I can do homework at 2:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m. I travel every week for work, and I like the ability to do my work on the road whenever it works for me.”
Jerry completed the DNP Executive Leadership in June 2018. He enjoyed the experience so much he has joined the adjunct faculty at American Sentinel. “One thing that really impressed me at American Sentinel was the supportiveness of the faculty,” he says. “I want to be that support system for future students.”
Although his workplace did not require Jerry to earn his doctorate, he’s confident that the decision will help him going forward. “I’m able to bring cutting-edge knowledge to my co-leaders and coworkers and to the organization I work with,” he says. “I feel like I’m a valuable contributor to the current dialogue. That’s an asset that I will bring to all future endeavors.”
Inspired by Jerry’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.