Laura Smith has always believed in bettering herself through education. Over a 20-year career at Beebe Healthcare in southern Delaware, she has worked her way up from Certified Nursing Assistant to a professional leader and earned BSN and MSN degrees along the way. Now she is back in school pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership at American Sentinel University.
The career idea that came to her early
Laura grew up outside of Philadelphia, and says she knew she would become a nurse from the time she was about 12 years old. “I remember thinking about nursing as a child and sticking to the idea in high school,” she says. Since becoming an RN in 2002, she has worked in medical-surgical, oncology and pediatrics. “I really enjoyed them all but when I transitioned from a bed-side nurse to faculty at Beebe’s School of Nursing in 2005, I absolutely loved it. I love the students and love that I still got to work in patient care with the students. Teaching nursing students truly is the best of all worlds. “
Furthering her education credentials
In 2008, Laura graduated from Wilmington University with an MSN in Nursing Education. She then moved into a full-time position as a nursing instructor. In 2014, Laura transitioned to a clinical nurse educator role when Beebe created a Clinical Professional Development Department. “I coordinate and oversee our graduate nurse residency program, student nurse extern program, and all external student clinical and observation experiences,” says Laura. “I’m also the lead nurse planner for our accredited contact hour provider unit.”
Influenced to earn a doctorate
In 2018, Laura ran into a former colleague, Karen Pickard, program administrator for Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing at Beebe Healthcare. “Karen told me she was in school for a Doctor of Nursing Practice at American Sentinel University, and I remember being intrigued,” says Laura. “We graduated nursing school together and our careers have been on a similar path.” Soon, Laura was researching doctorate programs, including American Sentinel University. “The DNP Educational Leadership fit me perfectly. It was a natural progression and a degree that fit my career path. The timing was really ideal for me.”
Fueling her passion for nursing professional development
Laura’s DNP journey has taught her more about who she is and what she’s capable of accomplishing. “I look forward to continuing to make a difference in the world of nursing and enjoying the benefits of nursing provides for me along the journey,” she says.
During the time of COVID-19, which has created so much uncertainty in the world, Laura says that earning her DNP is still a high priority. “The coronavirus crisis creates many opportunities in my role to teach our nurses to accomplish routine tasks in different ways,” she says. “My facility is being very proactive and cross-training employees. I love the energy I’m seeing during this difficult time. Nurse educators and staff alike are finding ways to work together to navigate this uncharted territory.”
Open new doors of opportunity
When she graduates with a DNP Educational Leadership in 2021, Laura hopes the degree will open new doors of opportunity. “We’re learning today that education is not limited to classroom walls,” she says. “I hope that what I gain enables me to contribute to nursing education in positive ways. I’m very impressed with the program at American Sentinel. I tell other nurses who want to continue their education that they absolutely should. The investment is worth the time and energy.”
Inspired by Laura’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.
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