In Kerri Benning’s family, nursing was something of a family tradition. “My mom is a nurse and so are several of my aunts,” says Kerri, who was born and raised in Jamestown, North Dakota. During high school, Kerri shadowed some Nurse Practitioners and liked what she saw, and began her journey with a BSN. She graduated from the University of Mary in 2005 and started her RN career in an assisted living facility in Bismarck.
A move into acute care pediatrics
In 2007, Kerri moved to Sanford Health, where she started working in acute care pediatrics. After several years, she decided to return to school. “I was ready for more, and wanted to pursue the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of North Dakota,” she says. A rural health rotation during school opened her eyes and Kerri was hired by the Underwood and Washburn Clinics after completing the MSN FNP in 2015—and she continues to work there today.
Working in a rural community is rewarding in many ways, Kerri says. “I love the complexity of it in that you work with all age groups and all types of patients, she says. “I know my patients so well. I love what I do and I love working in rural health.”
From precepting to teaching
For years, Kerri has happily introduced new Nurse Practitioners to rural health as a preceptor at her Underwood and Washburn Clinics. When a student suggested to her in 2019 that she apply for an opening at North Dakota State University, School of Nursing at Sanford Health, she didn’t hesitate.
Now, Kerri works one day in the clinics and teaches the other four days of the week. “It was hard to step back at the clinic, because I do love it, but we need more great Nurse Practitioners and that’s where I’m striving to contribute right now,” she says.
Time for a doctorate
Because Kerri teaches graduate students working to obtain doctorates (who are eligible for certification as Family Nurse Practitioners), she wanted to earn a doctorate herself. “I’m a lifelong learner and knew when I transitioned to an educational role that I’d go back for a terminal degree so I can transmit what I know from the clinic into the classroom,” she says.
Fellow faculty members were familiar with American Sentinel University, which Kerri had found in her own research as well. “I chose American Sentinel’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership because of the specialization, the high recommendation from people I trust and the flexibility of the program as far as the eight-week terms and online structure,” she says. “I’m a full-time faculty member, I am partner at the rural clinic, and I have three kids. I needed something rigorous but doable.” She began her doctorate in spring 2020.
Rural Health Scholarship
As a recipient of the Rural Health Scholarship, Kerri is appreciative of both the financial assistance and the support from American Sentinel. “This recognition from American Sentinel means people there think I’m a great candidate, which means so much and keeps me motivated,” she says. “They’re willing to invest in me. And that makes me want to prove that they’re investing in the right person.”
Leading by example
At NDSU Sanford Health, Kerri wants to convey to students that she too believes continuous education makes better nurses. But her end goal in earning the DNP Educational Leadership is to ensure patients in rural communities like the ones she serves receive the care they deserve. “In rural health, you never know what patient will walk through your door,” she says. “Rural healthcare is important and I want to convey my passion for it to my students.”
American Sentinel has created the Rural Health scholarship program to help healthcare providers and patients overcome obstacles that are different than those in urban areas. Eight scholarships are awarded per year. Congratulations to this quarter’s recipients. Learn more and apply here.
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