When Tami Yates was nearing high school graduation, she thought she’d go on to become an accountant or a lawyer. “I never thought about nursing,” says the native of Kilgore, Texas, close to where she lives today. Her best friend’s mom was an LVN, however, so Tami grew up spending time helping out at the town nursing home and always enjoyed it.
Post high school, however, Tami took a job in auto parts and stayed in the industry for six years before she ever thought about nursing as a career. “My aunt, who is an RN, started talking to me about it, telling me I would make a great nurse,” she says. Before she knew it, Tami was enrolled in a CNA program.
A career with select medical
Earning the associate degree didn’t come easy for Tami, who divorced and became a single parent right as she was starting the program. She and her son moved into a trailer on her parents’ land and it took all her will and persistence not to give up. She applied to Select Medical, one of the nation’s largest providers of specialized acute and post-acute care, and started her career there as a CNA in 2005. In 2007, after becoming a Registered Nurse, Tami became a critical care nurse there—a role she still holds.
Chasing the stars
During nursing school, Tami met her now husband, who encouraged her to keep bettering herself. “Everything I have today is because I’m married to a man who tells me to chase the stars,” she says. Her husband adopted her son and the couple had a daughter. And Tami kept after her dreams, enrolling in the University of Texas at Arlington for a BSN, which she completed in 2014.
While she was on a roll, Tami returned to UT at Tyler for an MBA and an MSN in 2016. “Along the way I’d thought a lot about how I could help the most people and felt that there were two obvious places: through education and administration,” she says. “I knew that furthering my education would help me get there.”
Next step: Doctor of Nursing Practice
In her journey to move into leadership, Tami started exploring opportunities to expand her experience. In 2017, she became an instructor in the vocational nursing program at Kilgore College. She is also still a critical care nurse at Select Medical.
Soon, Tami began thinking about pursuing a terminal degree to strengthen her resume for teaching and administrative job prospects. “I’ve long thought about getting a doctorate, but when I joined Kilgore College, it became clear that I have to if I want to stay in education,” she says.
When a colleague from the Texas Association of Vocational Nurse Educators shared information about American Sentinel University with Tami, she was intrigued immediately. “American Sentinel had the type of doctorate program I was looking for. I want a leadership, practice-focused doctorate, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice Professional Leadership gives me what I need to go further in either the clinical or education side—or both.”
Enrolled in Fall 2018
Tami started the DNP Professional Leadership program in October 2018 and hopes to finish the program in 2021. She’s continuing to work two full-time jobs, all while helping her son through college. But the effort is well worth it. “I’d love to say I’m super organized and it all comes easy, but the reality is it takes work. Every class requires me to think and learn and put in the effort. Really, it comes down to me wanting to achieve this goal.”
Once she graduates, Tami hopes to be able to teach online and advance in the hospital setting. “I believe this degree will open doors for me,” she says. “I could move into hospital education, teach online, and keep a foot in the clinical side. I feel that whatever I want to do, the doctorate will help me do it.”
Inspired by Tami’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.