Jennifer Sanders

Q&A: My journey towards achieving my Doctor of Nursing Practice

What prompted you to go back to school for your Doctor of Nursing Practice?

As the challenges within the health care sector continue to grow, it is clear that leaders must evolve in order to address and overcome these problems. Nurses must be able to lead in areas such as clinical practice, health policy, systems improvement, evidence-based practice, information management systems, and coordination of care teams across the continuum. As such, seeking out the highest level of nursing education and lifelong learning for nurses have been recommended by the Institute of Medicine in the report “The Future of Nursing.” Obtaining my DNP was one way of preparing myself to lead through our current and future challenges.

How will this degree benefit you in your current role at Texas Children’s?

Doctorally prepared nurses are well equipped to move our organization and the health care industry forward. Not only do we bring significant clinical knowledge, but we are also educated in areas such as systems thinking, quality improvement, finance, and strategy. Combining these skill sets allow for us to be catalysts for change, growth, and improvement.

How would you describe your DNP journey?

The most difficult part of this journey was re-establishing the habits required to ensure success. Since it had been seven years since I completed my graduate degree, it took some time to acclimate to the academic lifestyle. I spent many evenings and weekends reading articles, books, and websites. Additional time was required to write numerous papers, complete group projects, and participate in immersive preceptorship and fellowship experiences.

How challenging was it juggling work, family and school? How do you make it work?

Obtaining this degree would not have been possible without my extremely supportive husband, who frequently sacrificed family time and even helped proofread some of my work. I was very fortunate to have supportive leaders throughout the program that accommodated vacation and scheduling needs in order to meet course requirements. While this meant having the time to focus on school, it also meant devoting different hours to work in order to ensure that all my professional activities were completed timely, well executed, and met the highest standards.

Describe what it was like embarking on this journey with your colleagues.

Having such a fantastic, talented group of nurses to engage with throughout this journey was a blessing. Since we all have various strengths, we were able to rely on one another to explain concepts, provide reminders regarding due dates, and proofread or critique work. In addition, we had an intact support group as we faced challenges balancing school, work, and life. Without this group, I am not certain that we would have all been successful in completing this program.

Describe the emotions on graduation day when you officially received your DNP.

Graduation day was surreal. It was so hard to imagine that three years of work had come to an end and that all the adjustments made to both work and family lives could come to an end. While I felt a great sense of pride in myself that day, I was just as proud of my colleagues and friends at Texas Children’s as they walked across the stage.

Texas Children’s offers educational and professional development opportunities for nurses. How did Texas Children’s support you?

I began my career at Texas Children’s Hospital as a graduate nurse. Early on, I embraced opportunities to become involved with precepting, becoming a charge nurse, and engaging in our shared governance committees. I found a love for leadership and a desire to give back to the organization which has truly invested in me. I would encourage anyone interested in growing professionally to seek out advice and mentorship from those around them, as there is a wealth of knowledge and expertise to support growth.