After graduating in 1994 from Mississippi University for Women with a degree in kinesiology, Karen Taylor felt uncertain about her future. “At the time, physical therapy and athletic training hadn’t taken off as much in my area,” says Karen, who grew up on U.S. Air Force bases all over the country. Not long after college, she got married and had two children, turning her attention to raising her family. But always in the back of her mind was starting a career in the health field one day.
Drawn to nursing
When her children were young, something came over Karen and she felt drawn to nursing as a career. “It had never been on my radar before, but I felt pulled to it,” she says. She enrolled in a BSN program at Mississippi University for Women and graduated in 2003. Karen started her career in labor and delivery, working for Oktibbeha County Hospital for five years. She worked PRN in the triage unit, all while precepting nursing students. “The community college nearby was always looking for preceptors and so I volunteered to do that. I realized I had a knack for teaching.” Karen returned to school to further her opportunities in nursing education, getting an MSN in nurse education in 2012.
An opportunity to teach
In 2007, Karen got to know one of the instructors at East Mississippi Community College. “As a preceptor, I just really liked seeing the light bulb come on for students and realizing that I had something to do with it,” she says. Karen was turned on to an opportunity to teach full time at EMCC and joined the nursing faculty in the practical nursing program later that year. In 2012, she joined the associate degree program.
A seed planted
In 2016, an EMCC colleague shared with Karen that she was considering earning a doctorate at American Sentinel University. “That planted the seed,” she says. “I’m someone who does things all the way. And I knew that if there is one more step I could take to better myself, I wanted to take it.”
At the encouragement of Karen’s director, she investigated and enrolled in American Sentinel’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership. “The program fits my life and my independent learning style,” she says. Partway through her program, Karen’s father was diagnosed with cancer, and she considered dropping out. “American Sentinel has been amazing,” she says. “They worked with me the whole way through. They’ve been accommodating to help me in any way they could.”
A relevant capstone project
Karen’s DNP capstone project was about the impact of concept-based teaching. “It’s a teaching methodology that involves more active learning in the classroom, which works well for today’s generation of students,” she says. Karen even piloted the teaching approach in a course she taught. “Every class I took in my DNP program had to do with something I was doing at work. The program curriculum is relevant and applicable to the work I do in my own classroom.”
Karen will finish the DNP Educational Leadership in February 2019. “Getting this degree is the best decision I could have made for myself at this time in my career,” she says. After 11 years with EMCC, she hopes that having a doctorate will put her in a good position to move into administration. “We’ve grown and developed a lot, and I’m very loyal to this program, but my goal is to offer more to our students. I want the chance to impact our school and students in a different way.”
Inspired by Karen’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.