It’s been an intense two-plus years for nurses on the front lines. Many in the profession are branching out into other areas of nursing—and are earning their graduate degrees to get there. In celebration of Nurses Week, we connected with recent USAHS alumni who are doing impressive things in nursing beyond bedside care. From authors to nurse executives, from professors to international clinical coordinators, here are 10 cool careers in nursing, as exemplified by students and recent alumni of our Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs.
1. Hospital CEO: Chris Schmidt, DNP ‘22
Chris Schmidt, DNP, is an award-winning hospital leader with more than 30 years of combined military/civilian healthcare experience. A nurse practitioner, Dr. Schmidt served 22 years in the United States Navy Nurse Corps, both in medical treatment facilities stateside and in combat support operations overseas in Africa, the South Pacific and the Middle East. He retired at the rank of Commander. He received the Innovation in Patient Care award from the Florida Hospital Association and the Clinical Nursing Excellence Award from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States.
“[Pursuing my DNP] has been a lifelong goal of mine,” says Dr. Schmidt. “My wife and kids have been extremely supportive, and USAHS has been phenomenal in making it a reality.”
After serving for seven years as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Florida, Dr. Schmidt joined Doctors Memorial Hospital in Bonifay, Florida, as CEO. “The academic preparation in the DNP has truly helped me in mentoring other hospital colleagues, and has provided additional trust and credibility for community members using our facility,” he says.
2. Coordinator of International Clinical Opportunities: Tara Haskell, DNP ‘21
DNP graduate Tara Haskell is the Faculty and Operations Coordinator for Global Health Perspectives (GHP), an academic and clinical service-learning internship program at the Denver College of Nursing in Denver, Colorado. In this capacity, Dr. Haskell places students in local and international assignments and coordinates with organizations to ensure that students are delivering safe, culturally competent and sustainable healthcare. In 2022, she will travel with students to Peru and Guatemala; she has previously led trips to Uganda, Cambodia and India. During the pandemic, students worked in Denver with people experiencing homelessness, helping with chronic disease management and acute care.
“Global health is local health—and helping students gain knowledge and experience working with people from all walks of life is important to advance the field of nursing,” says Dr. Haskell. “Getting to see students grow in leadership and confidence while traveling internationally is one of the reasons why I love my job!”
Dr. Haskell received DCN’s diversity award both in 2017 and 2020 for striving to meet the needs of the university’s diverse student population, and for educating students about diverse patient populations. She also received DCN’s Circle of Excellence Nursing Faculty of the Year award in 2021. She is DCN’s lead pediatrics professor.
3. Clinical Excellence Program Manager: Viji George, DNP ‘22
DNP student Viji George is part of a system-level team that directs the Clinical Excellence, ANCC Magnet, and Pathway to Excellence programs for Texas Health Resources, a multi-institution healthcare organization in north Texas.
After serving for years as a neonatal ICU nurse at a Texas Health Magnet hospital, she realized she wanted to “be a cheerleader for nurses” in a management capacity. She became that hospital’s Magnet program director, a role in which a doctoral degree is preferred. “I explored many programs and was fortunate to get enrolled in a highly structured, organized and specific DNP program in the Nurse Executive track from USAHS,” she says. “I am proud to say that my work has helped me to do well in my school, and my learning has helped me to do well with my work!”
George also co-founded an international fellowship in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University and three colleagues. The Indo-American EBP Fellowship Academy offers short courses and fellowship programs on evidence-based practice for Indian nurses.
4. Professor: Tina Belanger, MSN ‘19
Tina Belanger, MSN, CRNI, IgCN, is on the nursing faculty at East Coast Polytechnic Institute (ECPI) University in Roanoke, Virginia, where she teaches Pharmacology and serves as a lab and clinical site instructor. “I believe in sharing nursing knowledge and scholarship with the next generation of nurses,” she says. She earned her MSN with a Nurse Educator role specialty.
Belanger chose USAHS because of its strong focus on interdisciplinary studies. “I learned a lot from my fellow nursing students as well as students from other disciplines,” she says. While in school, Belanger served on the leadership committee of Alpha Alpha Alpha, USAHS’ chapter of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.
“The MSN program gave me the push I needed. It improved my confidence and helped me truly believe in myself.” Read our blog post about Tina Belanger.
5. Holistic Nurse: Deborah Lewis, DNP ‘21
“My biggest draw to holistic nursing is knowing I have something positive to offer my patients besides a pill,” says Deborah Lewis, DNP. “Holistic nursing looks beyond traditional medicine and to herbal medicine and other modalities such as imagery, reiki, music, acupuncture and acupressure for treatment solutions.”
She used imagery and aromatherapy as an effective relaxation tool in her practice as a psychiatric nurse, and music therapy to stimulate the premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. “They loved Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray and classical music!” says Dr. Lewis.
During a graduate internship with the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), Dr. Lewis conducted a literature review and helped create an annotated bibliography for a project on holistic modalities for pain relief. She was appointed to AHNA’s Practice Committee for a two-year term.
6. Chief Nursing Officer: Eleanor Eberhard, DNP ‘21
Eleanor Eberhard, DNP, MBA, holds not one but three executive roles at Sequoia Hospital in San Mateo, California: She’s the VP of Patient Care Services, the Chief Nursing Officer, and the Chief Operating Officer. In early 2021, Eberhard acted as Incident Chief for a mass drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic that was a partnership between the hospital’s parent company and San Mateo County. At its peak, the clinic accommodated 20 lanes of cars and administered 3500 Pfizer vaccines per day. “It’s a well-oiled machine,” Eberhard says.
Eberhard used the mass vaccination clinic as a case study in her classes at USAHS and asked her peers for ideas about logistics. As a student, she was able to observe high-level meetings and see behind-the-scenes decisions at the corporate/divisional level.
“I have the most amazing team,” she says. “We’ve been working together for 11 years. We look out for each other.”
7. Infection Control Manager: Bob Kentner, DNP ‘21
Bob Kentner, DNP, is an Infection Prevention and Quality Manager at Sidney Regional Medical Center in Grant, Nebraska. During the pandemic, Dr. Kentner served as his area’s point person for logistics around procuring PPE and coordinating testing. He also served as Chair of the Emergency Nurses Association’s Quality and Safety Advisory Council in 2021. He began his healthcare career as a paramedic, then became an ER nurse and nurse educator.
“As a bedside nurse, I touched people’s lives one patient at a time,” Dr. Kentner says. “As the Infection Prevention and Quality Manager, I affect the care of every patient at my hospital. This means, in some way, I touch the life of every person that walks through our front door. This is a huge responsibility, but it is also an awesome privilege.”
8. Emergency Department Director: Elizabeth McMaster, DNP ‘21
Elizabeth McMaster, DNP, is the Nurse Director of an emergency department in a large trauma center in the Northeast. She worked on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To become a nurse executive was a reason I went back to school,” says Dr. McMaster. “Earning my DNP made me a strong candidate for my new position as a hospital director.” She had previously worked in management, so she knew what to expect.
“You don’t know how far you can push yourself until you do it,” she continues. “If you can go through this program while working, during a pandemic, and do well—what else can you accomplish in life? If I hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t know what I was capable of.”
9. Chief of Quality Management: Manuela Perales, MSN ‘20
MSN graduate Manuela Perales is the Chief of Quality Management at the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in Harlingen, Texas. In this role, Perales guides the organization to meet quality metrics that improve patient outcomes and access to care. Her work has also included coordinating community care and specialty services for the veteran population. She serves as a clinical preceptor for USAHS nursing students during their practica. In 2021, she won a USAHS Force for Good award.
10. Author: Leeann Blaskowsky, DNP ’20
Leeann Blaskowsky, DNP, APRN, NNP-BC, C-ELBW, wrote a book chapter while she was earning her DNP. “Fetal and Neonatal Marijuana Exposure” appears in Cannabis and Medicine, published by Springer in 2020. Given the shortage of evidence-based data on this topic, she had to dig deep. “I had the chance to communicate with experts in the field across the nation and around the globe,” she says. “An incredible opportunity in my little world, to be sure.”
During her doctoral program, Dr. Blaskowsky also faced the devastating loss of both parents and her son within the space of a year. She took some time off to grieve before resuming. “Some days were one foot in front of the other; some were definitely making progress toward that goal—and I made it.”
A board-certified neonatal nurse practitioner, Dr. Blaskowsky cares for well newborns in the pediatrics department of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado. Her background includes working as an emergency nurse and a sexual assault nurse examiner, as well as experience in acute care and electrophysiology.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program and Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates designed for working nurses. Our nursing degrees are offered online, with hands-on elements depending on the program and role specialty. The MSN has several options to accelerate your time to degree completion. Earn your advanced nursing degree while keeping your work and life in balance.