“Being stagnant is not something I do well,” says Ashley Carter, DNP Educational Leadership student from Evansville, Indiana.
That tendency to embrace change and enjoy learning—and a call to serve others—might stem from Ashley’s childhood growing up on military bases all around the world. After graduating high school in Washington state, she started out studying at the University of Evansville with the hope of getting accepted into the physical therapy program. However, she quickly realized that patient care was where she wanted to be. Ashley switched to a BSN program, graduating in 1999.
A start in cardiac telemetry
As a student nurse, Ashley started in the cardiovascular care center at Deaconess Hospital and stayed there for a brief time after college. She then joined an ear, nose and throat surgeon as a staff nurse and a cardiology practice for several years, earning the case management certification along the way.
Turning to teaching
After starting as a nurse care manager in Indiana Primary Health Care Association’s chronic disease management program, Ashley decided to earn the MSN in nursing education at the University of Southern Indiana, where she had gotten the case management certificate several years before. “I had thought about teaching, but wasn’t sure about it until I started my MSN,” says Ashley.
In 2007, she got a foot in the door at Ivy Tech Community College. “When I took this job, I knew this is the best way I can serve my community as a nurse,” Ashley says. “I love this student population and the variety of experiences the students have when they come to us. For some, it is a second or third career, while others may have just completed their GED or high school diploma.” Over the years, Ashley worked her way up from nursing instructor to assistant professor to associate professor—and in 2015, she accepted the role of department chair of Ivy Tech’s School of Nursing, helping to lead the RN, LPN, and LPN to RN programs.
Inspired to earn a DNP
After accepting the position of department chair at Ivy Tech, Ashley started thinking about her next career move. Taking on new responsibilities in this leadership role sparked her interest in investigating doctorate programs. “I wanted additional education that would help me as an administrator some day,” she says. She searched for nursing education-focused Doctor of Nursing Practice programs and discovered American Sentinel University. “The program and the school just seemed to fit me.” Ashley started the DNP Educational Leadership program in 2017. The same year, she was nominated by her college to participate in the National League of Nursing’s year-long Leadership Institute and was accepted into the program.
When Ashley began the DNP, she was intimidated, but after the first class and the in-person residency, she was thrilled. “The DNP program has exceeded every expectation I had,” she says. “Everything has been so relevant to what I do in my job, but at the same time, I’ve gained a lot of new knowledge that’s pushed me outside of my comfort zone. All this learning gives me energy.”
Students in mind
Ashley’s husband and daughter cheered her on as she completed DNP class after class, project after project. She now has just two classes left and will graduate in December 2019. Her Ivy Tech mentors and colleagues have also been supportive. But there is another group that fuels her motivation: her students.
“I view my students as my customers,” Ashley says. “When I went back to school, I immediately thought of them…I’m in awe of them, because they are doing what I’m doing, often while raising young children, working full-time, or as first-time college students. I want to become the best teacher I can for them. In my own DNP course work, I’m always thinking of how I can serve them better.”
Inspired by Ashley’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.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.