When Kim Sklebar was a young girl, her beloved grandmother became ill—an experience that would change her life in ways she didn’t even realize at the time. “That was truly a turning point for me,” says Kim, who grew up on a farm in North Dakota, about 45 miles south of Fargo. “I was seven years old and too young to visit her in the hospital, but I remember wondering what nurses do to help people get better. It planted the seed in my head.”
Fast-forward to high school, and Kim knew that nursing was her career calling. She graduated and went straight into an ADN program, beginning her career once she graduated two years later in 1986. For 26 years, Kim worked as an RN at Sanford Health—in critical care for many years as well as home health, the emergency department, the PACU, medical/surgical, ambulatory surgery, cardiopulmonary rehab and several other areas. Along the way, she became a supervisor on the cardiopulmonary team.
Moving up in her career
In 2009, Kim decided to get an MSN degree in leadership and management online. She earned the degree in 2012 and decided it was time to spread her wings. “I went to Essential Health as an operations manager, where I had cardiovascular surgery, cardiology, orthopedics and nephrology,” she says.
Though she loved the role, it was an intense schedule, and Kim decided to make a change in 2013. She joined the Veteran’s Hospital as a nurse manager, overseeing all of the special medicine clinics, including infectious diseases, liver wellness, cardiology, oncology/infusion, and hospice, among others. “I absolutely love it here,” Kim says. “I’ve been able to contribute to important changes, which has been really fun. We are one of the top VA hospitals in the country, so I’m very proud of how far we’ve come.”
Time for a doctorate
For years, Kim had considered earning a DNP but was deterred by the idea due to her full-time work schedule. “In late 2016, I started looking around online just to see if there was a program that would fit my life,” she says. “I’m a very independent learner, so when I found the Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership, it looked perfect for me.”
From her first phone call, American Sentinel felt comfortable. “I like how supportive the university is as well, and I especially liked the focus on executive leadership,” says Kim. She began the program in January 2017 and was awarded the National Nursing Education Initiative Scholarship by the Veterans Association. Her capstone focuses on using Registered Nurses to perform stress tests to increase access time of physicians for other important cardiology services.
Promoted to Associate Chief Nursing Services Officer
Not long into her DNP program, Kim had a new job opportunity fall in her lap. “An associate chief of nursing services positioned opened up, and the role was split into two: one person for operations and another for inpatient,” she says. Kim was encouraged by her peers to apply for the associate chief of nursing services-operations role, and she got the job in October 2017. Promoting nurses to work at the top of their scope and generating change, Kim says, are two of her favorite aspects of nursing leadership.
Grateful for the DNP experience
Kim will graduate with the DNP Executive Leadership in June 2019. She has been impressed by her American Sentinel professors and the advisors and says she is grateful for the academic experience and the chance to expand her network and knowledge base. “I hope that by earning the DNP, I can affect nursing at a regional or national level,” she says. “I’ve even thought maybe I could teach one day, but no matter comes next, I know the DNP will be worth it.”
Inspired by Kim’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.