When Angela Sass went to college, it was with a full-ride scholarship to study pre-medicine. But the Illinois native realized during her junior year that she wanted a role that would put her even closer to patients. “I wanted to be the one providing the care,” says Angela, who grew up in Union, Illinois, and has lived in the area most of her life. Angela switched gears and got the BSN from Saint Anthony College of Nursing, graduating in 1999.
Starting out in intensive care
Out of college, Angela worked two jobs, one in the telemetry unit and the other in critical care for Presence Saint Joseph Hospital, where she spent the first 14 years of her career. She spent time as clinical educator of critical care, manager of the medical-surgical intensive care unit and cardiovascular intensive care unit, and as a staff RN in the ICU.
Segue into teaching
Her experiences educating physicians and other nurses is what inspired Angela’s decision to earn a master’s degree in nursing education. “I really loved teaching and wanted to steer my career in that direction,” she says.
In 2007, Angela graduated with her master’s degree. She landed a full-time teaching position at McHenry County College in 2008. The program has since become one of the top nursing programs in the state and the college is pursuing accreditation. “I designed this program and have poured my heart and soul into it,” she says. “I really like the students here and the continuous challenge to strengthen what we offer to students. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Committed to maintaining her standards
All the while, Angela has maintained a presence at the bedside. She stayed at Presence Saint Joseph in the ICU until 2013 and has worked as an agency nurse in intensive care units in Chicago-area hospitals. “I do it because it benefits students, which is so satisfying to me,” she says. “Working at the bedside reminds me why I teach and helps me maintain my standards of care. I just can’t give it up yet.”
Time for a doctorate
In 2016, Angela decided she was ready to better herself by earning a doctorate. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that this would provide me opportunities and will definitely open doors,” she says.
In her research for the right program, one thing especially drew Angela to American Sentinel: the curriculum. “I looked at a lot of Doctor of Nursing Practice and doctorate programs and wanted to choose one that applied directly to what I do,” she says, adding that a colleague had attended and recommended the university. “As I reviewed American Sentinel’s DNP Educational Leadership, I could see the value of each individual class.” Angela enrolled in the program. She is now just two classes away from graduating in June 2019.
Angela says her greatest benefit from the DNP thus far has been the added perspective. “When I think back on the things I’ve learned, this degree has given me such a broader view of what other colleges are doing,” she says. “I think being in this program has made me a better employee and faculty member.” Angela has focused her capstone project on identifying appropriate hiring qualifications to ensure quality clinical educators.
To others considering taking the leap into a DNP program at a similar stage in their careers, Angela says to go for it. “If you identify a program that has a list of courses that really applies to your specific passions, there’s no reason you should hold yourself back,” she says. “For me, it was clear that the DNP Educational Leadership was a great fit for me and my career. I know this degree will allow me to take advantage of great leadership and career opportunities that come my way.”
Inspired by Angela’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.