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In Pursuit of my Doctoral Degree

28 July 2015 at 10:42 | 1391 views

By Nanah Fofanah-Sesay, DNP, RN, FNP-BC.

The purpose of this article is to outline my experiences associated with the pursuit of my doctoral degree at Walden University in the USA. My decision to pursue a degree of this magnitude is by no means an accident or an ego trip to be highly educated. The acquisition of my doctoral degree is rooted in a promise made by a daughter to a father. In addition, the achievement of this academic goal is an accomplishment that has been destined to be acquired.

Enrolling in the doctoral program with these concepts in mind, it became apparent to me that the options of quitting the program in the midst of setbacks and challenges are limited. From my academic experiences, the acquisition of the Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is by far the most difficult and time-consuming venture I ever embarked on. The difficulties were exacerbated by being a full-time student, having full-time job responsibilities and the parental duties of my two sons.

As a full-time student, meeting weekly online course requirements consist of 8-10 hours of daily study time during the first year of the program and 12-16 hours of daily study time once the capstone writing began. Completion of the DNP program is dependent on successful completion of all core courses and the capstone or dissertation.

As a full-time doctoral student, time management is of utmost priority as failure to meet weekly course requirements through Blackboard postings and responses to fellow pupils and instructors results in grade deductions and ultimate failure of courses. There were instances in which I was so overwhelmed with coursework and work responsibilities that I sometimes forgot to post or respond appropriately on Blackboard. Those were instances where major points were deducted from my weekly grades. However, as Winston Churchill eloquently stated, Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.

The didactiveness of the DNP program exposed me to persistent sleep deprivation and intermittent but persistent gastrointestinal symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea and a total weight loss of 30 pounds in 2.5 years. The practicum site enabled me to manage a more diverse population with various health deviations.

The development of the capstone introduced me to an advanced level of research and critical thinking. Weekly Blackboard interactions with instructors and fellow students around the world enhanced not only my academic growth but an appreciation for other people’s cultures, customs, beliefs, values, and religions. In addition, classroom interactions solidified my understanding of what each has to offer while enabling me to respect further differences among individuals.

The mission of Walden University is to produce scholars that will create positive social change for their communities, society, and the world. As such, the educational model of this university is not only valid, it’s transforms each and every one of its graduates into well-rounded professionals with the capabilities to impact positive social change in whatever arena they find themselves.

I cannot end this article without noting the contributions of my preceptor (Dr. I. Rana) whose knowledge and mentorship contributed to the completion of my DNP program. My chairperson (Dr. J. Cornelius) is an advocate for students and a champion in education. My instructor and program administrator (Dr. Stoerm Anderson) taught me how to uphold the value and integrity of a DNP degree throughout my professional career. During times of setbacks and challenges, Dr. Anderson is often called upon to alleviate unwanted situations. Last but not the least, my University Research Reviewer (Dr. T. Scott) is someone to reckon with, as she took the task of ensuring that my capstone meets the requirements of the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

My overall experiences at Walden University was highly positive. Acquiring the DNP degree has earned me the respect of friends, family members, colleagues, supervisors, other providers I work with, and my preceptor. It is now my responsibility to uphold Walden University’s mission of creating scholars for positive social change.