The first person Debbie D’Arcy ever did CPR on was her father, who died of heart disease when she was 14 years old.
“That experience is really what led me into nursing,” says Debbie, who is from Indiana. She worked there for the first three decades of her life, starting her career started at the hospital, St. Margaret Mercy Health Centers, where she was born, along with her three children. “After losing my dad, I wanted to make a difference and I felt that becoming a nurse was a great way to do that.” Debbie earned a BSN at Purdue University in 1987 and a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner and was on her way.
A start in coronary care
Debbie went into coronary care initially, then gained a breadth of experience: including telemetry, medical-surgical and home healthcare. In the mid-1990s, she and her family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she started teaching as an adjunct instructor for an LPN-RN bridge program while also working in home health.
A move to school nursing
In 2000, Debbie became a school nurse. “That actually led me to really want to further my nursing career and so I started thinking about getting an MSN,” she says. She went back to school for an MSN in Public Health Clinical Nursing, with a School Health Nurse specialization. She began training teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and therapists to work with children with special needs and spent time as a health services effective practice specialist for a school district in her area.
Inspired to teach
Eventually, working around so many educators made Debbie decide she wanted to teach. “I started working at a community college as a full-time clinical instructor and I just loved it,” she says. A few years later, she ended up at Missouri Baptist University School of Nursing. That’s when she started thinking about getting a doctoral degree.
“My dean was actually an American Sentinel alum,” says Debbie. “I felt that the Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership was rigorous and would benefit me a lot. I liked the focus on interprofessional collaboration and education. She started the program in April 2018.
Next goal: Teaching at University of Missouri, St. Louis
Once Debbie neared the end of her DNP program at American Sentinel, she set her sights on the University of Missouri nursing program. “Their program is well established and they’re very innovative and do a lot of research,” she says. After graduating at American Sentinel (April 2020), Debbie was hired in August 2020 to teach in community and public health in the new concept-based BSN program. “I know I would not be able to work in the capacity that I am now if I didn’t have a DNP. I achieved this goal because I had the doctorate, which feels really good.”
Applying her capstone project
Debbie applied her capstone project to her job, focusing on teaching cultural competence to nursing students. “We have a very diverse student body at University of Missouri,” she says. “These students bring so much to the community and I am excited to work with them.” With her DNP under her belt, Debbie hopes to do more research and publishing of that research on topics such as the social determinants of health, cultural competence and community health.
Her overall American Sentinel education has exceeded her expectations, Debbie says. “I felt like all discussions added a lot of value to my learning, and I was pushed in a way that I found meaning in everything I was doing,” she says. “I really enjoyed the experience, and would definitely recommend the DNP Educational Leadership. It worked for my life and my schedule and I came away a better nurse and professor because of it.”
Inspired by Debbie’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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