Debbie VanDerWilt | Staff ER Nurse, Christus Trinity Mother Frances

Debbie VanDerWilt | Staff ER Nurse, Christus Trinity Mother Frances

Year of the Nurse Scholarship recipient

For as long as she can remember, Debbie VanDerWilt has been passionate about caring for others. “At my earliest recollection of childhood, nursing is what I remember wanting to do,” says Debbie, who worked as a candy striper, lifeguarded and helped family members manage their health issues. The Pennsylvania native earned the Bachelor of Science Nursing in 1991 and started her career as a staff nurse in a level one trauma center in Greenville, South Carolina. 

Off to Texas

In 1992, Debbie moved to Texas and continued her emergency room nursing career. “I’ve never left the ER but I have moonlighted in other areas,” says Debbie. She spent 20 years with what is now known as Paris Regional Medical Center while raising her five children. She also worked as a house supervisor, rotating from labor and delivery to pediatrics to postpartum, and spent time in the intensive care unit. 

After a move across Texas so her husband could be closer to his workplace, Debbie ended up in Wills Point, Texas, and after a few different hospitals, she ended up working at Christus Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler, about an hour outside Dallas. There, she is part of the ER and the intensive care unit, working in medical-surgical, cardiology and neurology.

Onward for the MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner journey

About one year ago, Debbie started thinking more seriously about finally making good on a goal she had set years before: to become a Nurse Practitioner. “About 15 years into my nursing career I started thinking about this,” she says. “I love learning and the more people I can help, the better off I am. There was always that idea in the back of my mind.” As her children neared college age, Debbie knew it was time. “My research began. I narrowed down to three schools and American Sentinel University was one of them. The curriculum for the MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner program, the pass rate for licensure, and the reasonable tuition sold me.” Debbie started the program in January 2020. 

Earning a scholarship: someone took notice

Shortly after applying, Debbie saw information about the Year of the Nurse Scholarship on the American Sentinel website, and applied. She was named a recipient a couple weeks later. “I set a goal when I started this program that I would come out debt free,” she says. “So, the tuition help is a big relief, but it’s also meaningful for me because someone took notice. I am 29 years into my nursing career. You do your job, sometimes you’re appreciated and other times you are not, and the ER can be a hectic place. This was the kudos and thank-you I needed. It meant a lot.” 

Goals for Post-MSN

When she graduates with the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner in 2022, Debbie wants to open her own practice one day. “I’d love to incorporate holistic medication concepts and focus on preventative wellness,” she says. “I think the elderly population is where I’d love to focus too, to help that population understand why they need certain medications and determine if they can make lifestyle changes to go off some of them.”

Of her five children, who range from 19 to 27, one became a nurse, one became an occupational therapy assistant and the youngest is in nursing school. “That’s the biggest compliment to me,” she says. Being a student later in her career, she adds, is offering benefits she did not anticipate. “I’m enjoying the many different perspectives in my classes and it’s giving me things to take note of in my own practice. It’s pleasantly surprised me how much I am enjoying it. Wherever I go from here, I want to make a difference. I’ve liked school a lot and I’m excited to keep going.” 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife” and American Sentinel is celebrating by offering a Year of the Nurse Scholarship. Five scholarships are awarded per quarter in 2020. Congratulations to this quarter’s recipients. Learn more and apply here

Earning your Master of Science in Nursing gives you the opportunity to advance your career and continue to pursue your passion for nursing and healthcare.

With an MSN, you can pursue the path to management and leadership, specializing in an area such as nursing informatics or nursing education, or advance your patient care options as a Nurse Practitioner.

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