Shawn Buhrow knew in high school that nursing was her calling, and she attended the school just a few miles from her rural Iowa childhood hometown, Allen College. After becoming a Registered Nurse in 1991, Shawn joined Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, starting in orthopedics and oncology before moving into ambulatory surgery, pediatrics and office nursing.
“I grew a lot from all the moving around,” says Shawn, who worked at Allen Memorial until 1999. As she built her nursing career, Shawn was also raising her three young boys. When the physician at the OBGYN office where she was an office nurse left the practice, Shawn chose to stay home with her children, ages 8, 6 and 2 at the time. She started an in-home daycare and ran it from 2000 to 2004.
Building her resume
While running her daycare, Shawn decided to build her skill set by earning a Bachelor of Science Nursing at Allen College, her alma mater. She returned to nursing full time in 2004 via Allen Memorial’s Outpatient Surgery Center, where she gained experience treating pre-op, recovery and post-op surgical patients.
A new goal: teaching
Shawn also pursued a newfound passion: teaching. She joined Allen College in 2010 as an adjunct professor and fell in love with it. “I’d been interested in teaching for a while so after I got my BSN in 2007, I started pursuing opportunities,” she says. As she gained experience, she learned that a full-time teaching position would require an MSN, so she continued on at Allen College for an MSN Nursing Education, graduating in 2011.
Hawkeye Community College
Armed with an MSN, Shawn started searching for a teaching position and discovered an opening in Hawkeye Community College’s ADN program. She joined the college in January 2012 as a full-time faculty manager. It’s been a great fit from the beginning. “You get to know students so well here, which makes it really rewarding,” she says.
Just two years into her Hawkeye career, Shawn decided she wanted to return to school for a doctorate. “A colleague and I wanted to do it together, and we even selected a Wisconsin college with an online doctorate and started the program,” Shawn says. Tragically, as she began her second course, her father died unexpectedly in 2014. “I knew I would go back at some point, but I needed time.”
Discovering American Sentinel University
In 2016, Shawn was ready to return to a doctorate program, inspired by her late father’s words of encouragement. “I knew he would want me to go back and fulfill this dream,” she says. With a fresh mindset, Shawn researched online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs to ensure there wasn’t a better program out there for her, which is when she found American Sentinel. “The format and the curriculum looked really great and exactly what I was looking for. The mission aligned with my goals and I was impressed.” In April 2016, Shawn started the DNP Educational Leadership.
A valuable learning experience and a big opportunity
Shawn says one of the best aspects of the DNP Educational Leadership is its high rigor, which she appreciates. “I did this to learn, and I definitely have,” she says. On the other hand, she adds, earning a doctorate is achievable. “I work long hours and was concerned about my ability to do this at the same time, but American Sentinel’s format and flexibility mean you can work school around your schedule.”
In December 2016, Hawkeye Community College announced the need for a nursing administrative chair. “Honestly, I wasn’t looking and was happy being an assistant professor, but I’m so grateful that they saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself,” she says. Shawn accepted the position in January 2017. “They know my work and dedication to this college, but the fact that I was earning a doctorate definitely helped make me a great candidate.”
Planning her future
Shawn is in the final stages of her DNP and will graduate in early 2019. The timing of the DNP, she says, couldn’t have been better. “Everything I’d learned in the last few years in the DNP has helped me be the chair that I am,” she says. “Long term, I could see myself returning to teaching and I know that my American Sentinel education will help me be an excellent professor should I do that. I absolutely would recommend this program. It takes your knowledge to a higher level and you’re surrounded by highly intelligent people also pursuing their goals.”
Inspired by Shawn’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.