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Serena's Story – Why I Earned My Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Published on: July 15, 2021

A special thanks to Serena Arts (DNP, FNP-C, ANP-BC, CWCN), a graduate of the University of San Diego's BSN to DNP Program, for taking the time to share her story about pursing the Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been a nurse? What area of nursing do you work in?

I earned my BSN from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 1991. After working in the ICU for 8 years, I continued my education and completed the MSN Adult Nurse Practitioner program in 1999 from the University of San Diego (USD). Most recently, I earned my Doctor of Nursing Practice from USD in 2019. 

I currently work for the underserved homeless population at Father Joe’s Village in downtown San Diego. This is the best job I’ve ever had. It may not pay the most, but it serves the most, and I get great satisfaction. I am reminded about my priorities in life and how blessed I am.

If you have a bachelors degree in nursing and possess a desire to master clinical practice, a drive to lead, and a commitment to human connection—a BSN to DNP program may be right for you. 

What made you choose a career in nursing?

I was originally a dental assistant and went back to school to be a dental hygienist; however, life kept pointing me to nursing. First, my dad wanted me to go into nursing. Then, I met several pre-nursing students in my prerequisite classes, as I was learning the bones of the feet in anatomy, the physiology of organs, chemical make-up of our bodies—a far cry from the mouth and teeth cleaning. I kept seeing advertisements for nursing, running into nurses in day-to-day activities, on and on. It just seemed that God was pointing me there. 

Then, I was placed on the waitlist for the dental hygiene program. That was it, I changed my major and financial aid to nursing. Incidentally, the next week, the dental hygiene program called and offered me admission to the program. I turned down the offer and attended SDSU to pursue nursing. It seemed I was destined to be a nurse. 

What led you to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree?

When I decided to go back to school to earn my Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification, I researched doctoral programs. I might as well “move up” with the higher degree. The doctorate was becoming the standard, and I wanted to be sure I would continue to be as current and qualified in my profession as possible.

What attracted you to the BSN to DNP program at the University of San Diego? 

I had such a great experience here previously and knew I would get the highest standard of education at USD. The professors are well established in their careers, they are current in their practices, and the clinical rotations are excellent. 

- Serena Arts, DNP, FNP-C, ANP-BC, CWCN

What did you enjoy most about the program? Were there any standout experiences? 

I had clinical rotations that were extremely comprehensive, and I was placed in the specialties I had an interest in. The didactics were in-depth, demanding, and encompassing, so I received an excellent foundation to care for and treat patients. 

I was able to be published alongside another colleague through the direction of my faculty advisor Dr. Hoyt, who put the two of us together. My colleague was enrolled in the PhD program and I was enrolled in the DNP program. 

I was able to go on a mission to the Dominic Republic, an experience that changed my life. My goodness, the poverty, the wide use of resources, the close family ties, and the happiness I found there will forever stay with me. 

Lastly, the support that the campus provides was extremely helpful—the IT department, the Copley library staff and facilities (I spent many hours in the group study rooms), the Immaculata being close by and available, noon masses at Founders Chapel, the One-Stop Center, and even the cafeteria that provided great food and a convenient meeting place. 

Additionally, I made wonderful, lifelong colleague-friends.

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How has the program helped advance your career? What skills did you gain?

Being doctorally prepared has placed me at an equal level to physicians and PhD-prepared individuals.

Obtaining a doctorate degree in nursing has opened my eyes to broader aspects of the profession—to research, to evidence-based practice, to utilizing resources, to honing my skills—and it has allowed me to become a more confident care provider.

If you could give advice to someone considering USD for their DNP, what would you share?

The DNP program at USD provides the best doctoral education and the best experience. You will be thoroughly supported throughout the journey and will not be disappointed!

A Guide to Achieving the Doctor of Nursing Practice at USD

Our DNP program prepares nurses at the highest level of proficiency as they learn to translate science into clinical practice. Download the guide to learn about clinical placements, get answers to FAQs, and read about options to help finance your graduate nursing degree.

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A Guide to Achieving the Master of Science in Nursing at USD

For future Executive Nurse Leaders, Nursing Informaticists, or Adult-Gerontology CNSs.

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