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Student Spotlight: Susie Brown

“I’m the kind of person that once I decide to do something and I’m committed, then I’m committed to the end,” says Susie Brown. When Susie was about halfway through ACU’s online  Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, she faced some challenges that might daunt a less persistent person.

Susie earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the University of San Francisco right after high school. She graduated from nursing school in 1976. While working for Kaiser Permanente in California, Susie’s leadership potential quickly became evident. Kaiser promoted her to Assistant Nurse Manager and promptly encouraged her to go for her master’s. Full tuition reimbursement sweetened the offer.

Susie recalls, “At that time, I had young children, and I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ but I did it. I went through the program and got a Master’s in Nursing Administration from San Jose State University.” Susie has worked as a school nurse for eight years. Currently, she works at Stanford University as a Case Manager.

Motivated by a dream

When asked what inspired her to tackle a DNP program, Susie replies, “It’s always been my dream. I’ve always wanted to do this. A lot of my colleagues are already finished.” But she feared her age might be an obstacle. “I kind of felt like I was old, ‘cause I’m 65. I felt like it was going to be a struggle because I’ve been out of school.” 

Susie reduced her school nursing job to part-time in order to make her degree program more manageable. She shares, “Just returning to school, you have to start thinking again, you have to start thinking scholarly, you have to improve your writing, and it’s a constant thing. Every single day, you have to work on the DNP project.”

While she wishes she’d gotten an earlier start on her doctoral degree, Susie’s clearly all in now. Even a cancer diagnosis that required surgery and radiation could not deter her from continuing on with her coursework in pursuit of her DNP.

Choosing ACU Online for her Doctor of Nursing Practice

Once Susie decided to enroll in a DNP program, she began researching universities that offered both 100-percent online and hybrid programs. She recounts, “And then, as I did more research and talked to different recruiters for those schools, I just really liked the attitudes of the recruiters at ACU Online. It just felt right.”

Susie credits DNP inaugural program director Dr. Tonya Sawyer-McGee’s YouTube video with playing a large part in her decision, too. She recalls, “I really liked her approach to the DNP process. She seemed to be excited about nurses entering her program, and she talked about support, and that’s critical. I feel the support. It’s stressful going through a DNP program. Just from watching her video presentation, I could feel the excitement she had about the program. It made me feel like this would be the program for me.”

Even though three other programs had already accepted her, including some in her home state of California, Susie felt a strong pull to ACU. She applied, was accepted, “And so now, I’m here!”

Susie’s experience as an online DNP student

ACU’s individualized student support system has been vital to Susie’s success. Her first point of contact helped her acclimate to returning to school while accessing the many resources available to her. “We would talk, I think, every other week about how everything was going. Every time we would meet, she would have a resource to support me in the process.”

During her third class, Susie found out she had cancer and would need surgery. She shares, “I was really stressed out. And then I talked to my student services advisor, and she was really supportive, as was my professor. They never met me in person, but they were so supportive during this process, this cancer I was going through, and my surgery. Then, when I thought everything was going okay, I was still doing my class, and I found out that I had to have radiation.”
Susie didn’t want to stop the program, so she spoke to her professor. “He was able to adjust, and I was able to continue in the program going through radiation. So, I just felt like they were so supportive. It was beyond support — the professor as well as the advisors that we have.”

Susie also loves the material and the way her online DNP program is structured. “Some of this stuff is just so incredible that you’re learning and the reading is unbelievable. But the classes are very structured, and there are clear expectations. You know exactly what you’re going to do and how many points it’s worth. Your grade is constantly posted every time you turn work in.” The fact that the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Abilene Christian University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is also important to Susie.

Connecting with her classmates has also been very rewarding. “I’ve been able to reach out to another student that’s in the program and we’re study partners. I don’t know her, and she doesn’t know me, but our commonality is this DNP program. She’s much younger than me, too, which is funny, but our deep connection crossed generational barriers. I feel like we’re supporting each other, and it feels like it’s going to be a lifelong friendship because of this DNP program.”

Putting her DNP into practice

Susie’s DNP project is tied to school nursing and school closures. “There’s limited research in school nursing, so I feel like getting this DNP is going to open the door for me to be a nurse consultant with school nurses and maybe across the country. School nursing is kind of a new specialty because now we have kids in schools that are so sick that require high-level nursing supervision.” Susie points out much of this can be attributed to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that requires “a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).”

Susie expects to finish her program in June 2021. She’s already talked to universities in California that are ready to hire her now. But she wants to wait, hoping to be a university professor, perhaps part-time. In addition to offering consulting work as a school nurse, Susie can also envision taking a permanent job at Stanford University Hospital, perhaps in research. “But I’m not sure if I want a permanent job,” she muses.

Susie enjoys tremendous support from her three attorney sons, lovely daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. She quips, “They’re in support of me obtaining the doctorate degree because they’re tired of me talking about it.”

Do you share Susie’s desire to further develop your clinical and leadership skills as a medical professional? Learn more about what ACU Online’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program can do for your future. Visit us at or call 855-219-7300 to speak with one of our admissions advisors.

Original publication date: February 21, 2020
Updated: February 17, 2021

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