Year of the Nurse Scholarship Recipient
When Melissa Williams graduated with an Associate Degree of Nursing in 2004, becoming an educator was the furthest thing from her mind.
“I wanted to become a bedside nurse and work with patients every day,” says Melissa, who was born and raised in Arizona. But after working for nine years, primarily in pediatrics, she began thinking about the future. “I love working with patients, but I realized that 12-hour shifts and the physical demands of nursing might not always appeal. That’s when I started thinking about nursing education.”
Pursuing an MSN Nursing Education
Melissa earned a BSN in 2006 while continuing to work at Scottsdale Healthcare as a pediatric staff nurse. “I got the MSN Nursing Education in 2011, and right after I finished it, a friend who was teaching at Glendale Community College as well encouraged me to apply for an open position teaching pediatrics,” she says. “Two months later, I was teaching a class. And I absolutely fell in love with teaching. Making a difference in the lives of hundreds of students a semester who then go on to care for patients is my way of continuing to have an impact.”
After several years teaching as an adjunct, in 2011, Melissa was hired full time at Glendale Community College, which is part of the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the United States. She continued to work per diem in the hospital until 2013.
A doctorate to prove something to herself
‘Never say never’ has become a mantra for Melissa, who “swore after the MSN” that she was done with furthering her education. But at commencement, when she saw doctoral candidates in their graduation regalia, she admits she became a little jealous. “If there is something I know I can achieve, a little voice just nags at me until I give in,” she says. Although the timing wasn’t quite right immediately after completing the MSN, a seed was planted. Once her kids were a little older, she began her research
American Sentinel University rose to the top of possibilities. “There were only two doctorate programs in the country that I found with an educational leadership focus and an emphasis on practice, not research,” she says. A few of Melissa’s colleagues wanted to get doctorates as well, so when she enrolled in 2019, so did four others from Glendale Community College and one other Maricopa campus in her community college system. “It’s been a really meaningful experience doing it together. We keep each other going.”
Honored to be selected as a Year of the Nurse Scholar
When Melissa applied for the Year of the Nurse Scholarship in early 2020, she was eager to receive a little financial help toward her education. “When I learned that I received the scholarship, I was really moved to be honored by a scholarship created to recognize Florence Nightingale,” she says. “I like that this scholarship was created to celebrate a respected nurse pioneer, and intended to inspire nurses to do good things. This pushes me to be a leader and a role model.”
One way Melissa will fulfill that promise is through her capstone project, which is focused on identifying alternative ways to teach medication math to nursing students. “At Glendale, we try to teach good clinical judgment in all classes, including math,” she says. “That’s what I’m working to do in my doctorate capstone project.”
A credential to open new doors
For Melissa, earning a DNP was largely about proving something to herself and reaching a big achievement. But more than anything, it is about opening doors and having future opportunities, she says. “I love teaching very much, and I feel like if I’m good at this, it is almost my duty to better equip myself to help ease the nursing shortage,” she says. “I have always told my sons, ‘education means opportunity.’ That’s what this is for me: opportunity to keep growing.”
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