Year of the Nurse Scholar: Heather Knoblauch

Year of the Nurse Scholar: Heather Knoblauch

Heather Knoblauch’s experience as a nursing student shaped the way she teaches her students today. 

“I actually attended the college where I now teach,” says Heather, who grew up in rural Illinois and has been a nursing instructor at Illinois Valley Community College since 2016. Her own experience in nursing school was far from smooth, so Heather is committed to helping other nurses persist and achieve their best. “I failed a class my second year of nursing school and it was devastating, but what I learned most from it was to not give up. And I tell my students that today: setbacks should not deter us in life.” 

A career at St. Margaret’s Hospital 

After graduating from an ADN program in 1993, Heather began her nursing career at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Spring Valley, Illinois. She started out on the medical/surgical floor and eventually became a charge nurse. The majority of Heather’s career at St. Margaret’s was in obstetrics, where she continues to work PRN today. She also spent time as a perinatal coordinator. 

Along the way, Heather completed a distance learning BSN through Illinois State University. She earned the MSN online in 2015 too, at the urging of a coworker who had earned a doctorate. “I did the master’s degree because I knew it would help me continue in management at the hospital,” she says. 

A move into teaching

As Heather moved into management, she talked with a mentor—the same one who encouraged her to continue furthering her education—about the possibility of teaching. “I’ll admit: I needed a change, and so I started teaching as an adjunct at Illinois Valley Community College, where I went too. It lit me up. I was feeding off students’ enthusiasm and was so excited. It was that burst of energy I needed to continue in my career.”

A doctorate to strengthen her career

Heather and several other colleagues started talking about returning to school for a doctorate in 2020. “A big motivator for me was to increase my earning potential, but I also wanted to make sure I am well equipped to be the best educator I can be,” she says. “When I found American Sentinel’s Doctor of Nursing Educational Practice, it looked doable to me. This is a big commitment, but it seemed like something I could achieve and that I could afford.” In August 2020, she started the DNP Educational Leadership at American Sentinel.

Year of the Nurse Scholarship

Heather is a Year of the Nurse Scholar, earning the scholarship at the end of 2020. “I have had a bit of a bumpy road, but this proved to me that it doesn’t matter how you get where you are, it matters that you got there. This scholarship was validation for me that keeping at it, even when things get hard, has been worth it.” 

Future goals 

When Heather graduates in 2022, she says the achievement will inspire her to give back to students. “I love where I work, but I am eager to be an inspiration to students and earn that level of respect that an instructor with a doctorate holds,” she says. “I’m going to be very proud when I get there. It will have been hard earned!” 

The World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife” and American Sentinel celebrated by offering a Year of the Nurse Scholarship. Several scholarships were awarded per quarter in 2020. Congratulations to the fourth quarter recipients. 

For those wanting to advance to leadership positions in education, hospital management, informatics or other related areas, consider American Sentinel’s online DNP program, with specializations in Executive Leadership, Educational Leadership, Informatics Leadership and Professional Leadership.

Check out our blog about DNP specialties to help you make this decision.

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