After Allyson Swan’s very first nursing course in 2005, she thought she would choose a totally different career path. “I chose to study nursing thinking it would be a good job and a steady career path, but I did not enjoy my first nursing course,” says Allyson, who is from south Florida. An experience with an excellent instructor changed her outlook, however, and she has never looked back. “I’ve had the same mentor in nursing since I was 18 years old, and she is my mentor today in my DNP program. She’s the one who told me to stick out nursing, and I’m so glad that I did!”
From LPN on up
In 2006, Allyson’s nursing journey began. She became a Licensed Practical Nurse and worked as a correctional nurse, before transferring to the hospital setting. From there, it was an upward trajectory that included earning an ASN and BSN in 2010 and 2012. She worked in critical care for seven years before getting into travel nursing, spending time in neurological intensive care and emergency medicine at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Since 2012, Allyson has worked at least part time at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute. After her adventures as a travel nurse, she returned to Lawnwood full time in 2017. She started teaching as an adjunct instructor at Indian River State College, her LPN, ASN and BSN alma mater.
“I actually got a letter from the dean suggesting that I teach a class, and it totally surprised me,” says Allyson. “I really struggled through school, but I decided maybe the dean knew me better than I realized.” Allyson fell in love with teaching so much so that she started an MSN nurse educator program, graduating in 2017.
Doctor of Nursing Practice
In 2017, Allyson was nudged by a former professor to consider earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice. “Again, it was a surprise to me because my MSN program did not come easy,” she says. “I had considered further education, but I wanted to take a break after my MSN to think about it. My MSN mentor told me to keep going.” Instead of taking a break, Allyson found herself enrolling in a doctoral program that came recommended to her by other nurse colleagues: American Sentinel University’s DNP Educational Leadership.
Allyson started at American Sentinel in 2017. “I love the focus on education and things like curriculum building and design,” she says. “I felt like this was the program I needed to be a great educator.”
In 2018, Allyson was hired at Keiser University as a full-time faculty member in the nursing department. “The timing was really great, because the courses I was taking in my DNP program helped me build a new BSN curriculum that we were starting at Keiser,” she says. “So much of what I was learning at American Sentinel helped me immediately in that position, it was an intense moment as an educator.” In addition, she still continues to work per diem on a cardiac telemetry unit for Lawnwood Hospital.
Helping students write
Soon into her career at Keiser, Allyson discovered a problem. “I realized how many of the nursing students struggled with writing,” she says. “I decided to create an evidence-based professional writing workshop. It is all about improving themselves as writers and applying those skills to their nursing jobs, in both written and verbal communication.”
Based on this discovery, Allyson chose to make her writing program the subject of her DNP Educational Leadership capstone project. She is studying students’ writing abilities and giving them individualized help to transform them into stronger writers, stronger correspondents and professional Registered Nurses.
Eyes on the future
With the DNP behind her name—she is set to graduate in May 2020—Allyson feels that more options will be open to her. “I love teaching and one of the best parts is that I can really relate to my students,” she says. “I’ve been where they are: full-time student, working multiple jobs, juggling multiple responsibilities. I’ve been in school for a very long time myself, and so I try to be a source of inspiration to them. If I can do it, anyone can.”
Inspired by Allyson’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.