Ashanti Starr Johnson had two impactful experiences that led her to become a nurse—one positive, one negative.
After getting pregnant at a young age, Ashanti’s first labor and delivery nurse was condescending, but the one who cared for her two nights after her son was born made up for it with kindness and compassion. “She asked me when she walked in the room, ‘I will be here for 12 hours. During that time, what can I do for you to make you as comfortable as possible?’” says Ashanti. “That was the spark for me. I’d thought about becoming a surgeon when I was younger, but this experience made me decide that nursing was where I belonged.”
Off to nursing school
Just two years later, Ashanti enrolled in a concurrent program to earn an associate degree and BSN. She graduated and became a nurse in 2007, and earned a BSN with the University of Central Florida in 2008. “I went straight to the intensive care unit after graduation because I just knew right away it was where I belonged,” says Ashanti. She enjoyed the role, but one day, her then-six-year-old son made a surprising suggestion.
“He turned to me and said, ‘Mommy, I think you should be a nurse who teaches nurses,’” she recalls. “I’d actually never even considered it before, but I decided to try teaching in an evening Practical Nursing program. That was 2009.” Ashanti liked teaching so much that soon, she was enrolled in an MSN Nursing Education program at the University of Central Florida once again. She finished the program in 2012 and made teaching her full-time career focus.
“I’m not exactly sure where I’ll go, but I feel that I have a lot to offer as far as knowledge and ability. With this degree, I will give myself the opportunity to do more for my patients.”
In 2016, Ashanti joined Cambridge College of Healthcare & Technology as an adjunct instructor in the ADN program while still working per diem in home healthcare. She became the clinical coordinator for the Associate Degree and Practical Nursing program in 2017. Six months later, she became the dean of the Associate Degree Nursing program. Today, Ashanti is the dean of both the Associate Degree and Practical Nursing programs at Cambridge College.
Along the way, Ashanti decided it was time to get a doctorate. “I actually started thinking about getting a doctorate when I was finishing up my MSN in 2012, but life got in the way,” she says. “I heard about American Sentinel University then from a colleague, and I kept it in the back of my head. Then one day, many years later, an admissions representative reached out to me.”
Good timing for a doctorate
Before she knew it, Ashanti was enrolling in her first class in August 2020. “I loved that the program was ACEN-accredited and I liked that I could get a doctorate focused on nursing educational leadership,” she says. “In my 11 years in nursing education, I have realized that I am a scientist at heart—a change agent. I’ve been doing a lot of things with my students over the years with great outcomes. Now I am really excited to have a platform and voice to be heard, do research and publish my findings. That’s one goal I have with this doctorate.”
A future continuing to help students
Another goal of Ashanti’s is to start a nursing school of her own one day. She wants to continue to work with students in a way that helps them become the best nurses. “I want to make a difference by increasing the quantity of quality nurses,” she says. American Sentinel, she adds, will help her get there. “From the very beginning, my experience has been awesome. This school is set up in a way that it helps students accomplish their objectives. I became a nurse to be part of positive change and that’s what I am striving toward with this doctorate. That’s where I see my future.”
Inspired by Ashanti’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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