Sherena SamuelSherena Samuel’s nursing career all started at Carolinas College of Health Sciences, where she earned her Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) in 2006 as a first-generation college student. After that, she completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from another university in 2008. She worked on a pediatric unit as a registered nurse and functioned as the nurse educator, and eventually pursued her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). When she finished her MSN and became a family nurse practitioner in 2012, she swore she was finished with school.

“I was done! I was not going back for more school! Then one day, I met Dr. Washington.” Sherena loved teaching nurses, and she met Dr. Felicia Washington, a 2013 graduate of UA’s 100% online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, through an educator role. Sherena was the nurse practitioner preceptor for a student of Dr. Washington’s. “She encouraged me to look at UA’s DNP program because it had been so helpful to her, so I went for it. Then I was accepted, and I thought, ‘Whoa. This train is about to leave the station!’”

In Fall 2018, Sherena began the program from the convenience of her home in North Carolina. She was working full time as a nurse practitioner and handling family responsibilities as a wife and mother to a young daughter. “Going back to school as an adult learner and balancing all of those roles is not easy,” she said. “But I felt like the course load was doable. It wasn’t easy, but it was manageable and realistic with a full-time career.”Sherena and her family

For Sherena, balancing her many roles meant making the most of every moment. “Sometimes I would use my breaks at work to catch up on some reading or other work for school. When I came home after long hours at work, sometimes that meant a long night.” Her time management and dedication paid off when she maintained a 4.0 GPA in all her coursework, an accomplishment of which she is very proud.

In the spring of 2020, Sherena was finishing her final semester in the program while also acting as a frontline health care worker in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. “I was working on my research portion of the program at that point, and there were so many stressors from school, work and the pandemic,” she said.

Nevertheless, she persisted. Her research utilized her experience in a retail health clinic where she sees patients who are looking for sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. “Patients — even health care providers — are uncomfortable talking about these STIs,” she explained. “My research looked at how we can educate providers to be more confident taking STI risk assessments and having effective conversations with patients that can lead to better patient care and ultimately better outcomes for our patients.”

Sherena graduated in May 2020 and traveled to Tuscaloosa in August with her husband and daughter to celebrate a delayed and socially distanced commencement. “It was the first trip we had taken since the pandemic, so it was a little Sherena at graduationnerve-wracking. But I felt safe. UA planned it well. Everyone wore masks and we were able to distance appropriately, and I’m so glad they offered that. It meant a lot to me and my family.”

Since graduation, Dr. Sherena Samuel has also begun teaching at the very school that started her nursing career. “It really came full circle for me when I was able to teach at Carolinas College of Health Sciences.” She is a clinical nursing instructor there, helping future nurses one on one in a clinical setting, with a new group of students every seven weeks. “The DNP wasn’t required for my role, but I definitely think having it helped me.”

In December 2020, Sherena had her research published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. “My UA adviser, Dr. Amy Beasley, co-authored the article with me. She played a major role in my research project and in my success in the program.”

“The DNP program elevated my knowledge of nursing and health care, which then goes to improve patient care as well. I owe it all to God and my amazing support system. This is just the beginning!”

Published: March 17th, 2021