In Tammy Buchholz’s family, nursing has been something of a family tradition. “Honestly, it struck me as the thing I should do,” says the North Dakota native. However, nursing wasn’t Tammy’s first career. After graduating high school, she enrolled in cosmetology school, married her high school sweetheart, and moved to Wyoming for her husband’s job.
Seeking a fulfilling career
A few years later, Tammy was a mother of two toddlers. “Something struck me that I needed more in my life,” she says. “I decided to try nursing, because my aunts were nurses and it was something I had considered doing too.” Tammy enrolled at Casper College, and pushed past her insecurities to keep working. “I remember telling my husband I wasn’t sure if I was smart enough to do it and him telling me not to come home until my first class was over! And he was right. I was smart enough, and I just needed to prove it to myself.” In 1991, Tammy graduated with the ADN and began her nursing journey—as well as her educational journey.
Returning home, earning the bachelor’s degree
After Tammy graduated, she and her husband returned to North Dakota to raise their children near family and she enrolled in a BSN program at the University of Mary. “North Dakota was the only state at the time that required a four-year degree to be a licensed Registered Nurse, so I worked toward that over the next nine years,” she says. She worked too—at Sanford Health West, as an RN in medical/surgical/urology, obstetrics/labor and delivery, and same-day surgery. “I love nursing, but working with newborns and new mothers really was my passion and my love.”
MSN in Nurse Administration
Eventually, Tammy moved away from the bedside and into case management at Sanford Health West. “I decided to get an MSN too so that I could feel more confident in that job,” she says. There, a colleague encouraged her to think about teaching. “I had always liked helping out with clinicals, but when this friend knew I was in the MSN program, she told me I should really think about doing more teaching.”
Tammy joined Sanford College of Nursing as a clinical teaching faculty member in 2005 and graduated with the MSN in 2006. Since then, she has worked her way up to assistant professor. “Teaching affords me the ability to have a legacy that carries on,” she says. “It’s such a gift, but also an enormous responsibility to know that I’m preparing nurses who are caring for my family members and my community.”
An unexpected change
When the ownership of her college changed in 2014, Tammy decided to accept a new position with Sanford Health West, where she had worked prior to pursuing her nursing education career. “I was the nursing research and magnet coordinator and a clinical nurse educator,” she says. But when the opportunity to join the North Dakota Board of Nursing came up in 2015, Tammy jumped at it. She is now the associate director for education. “Honestly, I think this is an area where my strengths lie. I’ve loved this role.”
In her new position, Tammy was motivated to earn a terminal degree. “I was surrounded by professionals with doctorates and it had been on my bucket list for a while,” she says. She found the American Sentinel Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership and knew it was the right program for her. After four years of hard work, while juggling motherhood and work, Tammy graduated in spring 2020.
An emotional culmination
Graduating just two months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Tammy was unable to walk at a commencement ceremony. Her family—who had cheered her on through her fourth and final degree—set up a graduation ceremony of their own later that year. “It was truly amazing, meaningful and the best way to finish my education,” she says.
Although completing the doctorate was largely a personal goal, Tammy is excited to see where the credential will take her professionally. Already, she has been appointed a member of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing leadership succession committee and chairperson of the Nurse Licensure Compact Research Committee. In July 2021, she is speaking at an Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing conference.
Grateful to American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Tammy says that her American Sentinel support system has helped her every step of the way. “Not only did they help me learn, they were so respectful of me as a human being, a nurse, and a professional.” As a student in her 50s who had not done online learning before, Tammy says the guidance she received made all the difference. “I’ve never worked with more consummate professionals than I did at American Sentinel.”
Inspired by Tammy’s story? A DNP with a specialization in educational leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in nursing education programs. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.
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