When Dagmar Strenk was 18 years old, she left her home in Slovakia to see the world. “I came to the U.S. for an adventure and ended up staying,” says Dagmar, who settled in Brooklyn, New York. By age 25, she had earned an associate degree in biology, with plans to become a physician’s assistant.
“I’d always been interested in healthcare,” says Dagmar. After marrying, she and her husband started a family and moved to the Delaware Valley area. Dagmar worked as a real estate agent, substitute teacher in the nearby school district and owned a small business. But when a friend pointed out to her during a “Mommy and Me” gym class that she’d make a great nurse, it got her thinking. “Before long, I was enrolled again at community college and working on an Associate Degree of Nursing program.” Dagmar graduated in 2005 and became a Registered Nurse.
Bon Secours Community Hospital
That same year, Dagmar began her nursing career at Bon Secours Community Hospital. She started in medical-surgical, then moved into the telemetry and emergency departments. While she loved working with patients, she quickly felt drawn to the idea of teaching.
“I had all this knowledge and felt like I wanted to give that back to new nurses,” she says. First, however, she knew she would need to get BSN and MSN degrees. So, she applied and was accepted to the University of Phoenix, where she completed the degrees one after the other (in 2008 and 2010).
Assistant Professor at State University of New York Orange County Community College
In 2011, Dagmar felt fortunate to be hired as a full-time faculty member at the State University of New York Orange County Community College, Nursing Department. In the 2015-2016 school year, she served as interim department chair during the department’s re-accreditation by the New York State Education and Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing for three nursing programs at SUNY Orange County Community College, where she currently teaches.
“I learned a lot throughout that process,” says Dagmar. In particular, she affirmed that teaching is her passion, and she returned to it after her interim duties were fulfilled. In 2017, an opportunity arose to return full-time to Bon Secours—where she has worked since 2005—as the hospital’s professional development and education practitioner. But again, Dagmar’s love of teaching drew her back after a year in the role. “I continue to work per diem at Bon Secours, because I really do enjoy both the hospital and the education setting. I’ve been fortunate that both places have offered me these generous opportunities to learn and grow.”
Furthering her education, striving toward her goals
Although SUNY Orange did not require Dagmar to earn a doctorate in her position, when American Sentinel University came to her hospital in fall 2018 for an information session, she was intrigued. “I am always up for progressing with my knowledge and skills, and what better way to do that than a doctorate?” she says. Along with a colleague, Dagmar enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Professional Leadership. “I loved the program’s flexibility to choose courses that I’m interested in and combine my education experience with my other experience. American Sentinel seemed like a high-quality institution with a great system in place. The affordability, the enrollment process, the staff—everything impressed me.” Dagmar started the DNP Professional Leadership in October 2018.
Reflecting on her past, planning a bright future
Dagmar says that the words she speaks to her own students also resonate personally. “I told my students just recently, ‘Guys, this is just the beginning of your journey,’” she recalls. “I’m spreading the message of advancing education and seizing opportunities! I sat in the very same chairs they are sitting in, as a student myself. I want to be an example.”
Inspired by Dagmar’s story? A DNP with a specialization in professional leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for managerial or entrepreneurial roles in complex healthcare systems or smaller clinical settings. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.