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Donavan Painter worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) for 20 years before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered Nurse.

The Florida native was a good student growing up, but there was no money for college—so getting there wasn’t easy. “My mom worked at a convenience store, and I didn’t qualify for student loans, so I made my way to a technical college,” says Donavan, who had completed a Certified Nurse Aide course in high school and enjoyed it. He graduated in 1996 from the LPN program and started his career at Lakeland Regional Health in the emergency department.

Expanding His Clinical Experience

At Lakeland Regional and other hospitals, Donavan gained various clinical experience—in areas like cardiovascular and medical-surgical. When the hospital started phasing out LPNs to replace RNs, he was allowed to return to nursing school, but chose not to. “When I was in LPN school, a few instructors were discouraging toward men interested in becoming nurses, and it unfortunately made me decide that nursing school wasn’t for me,” he says. Instead, Donavan moved into outpatient dialysis care and, eventually, home healthcare and assisted living healthcare.

Donavan’s job at a nursing home involved management, which he enjoyed. “It was the first time I gained any sort of leadership experience, and I really liked contributing to the success of our staff,” he says. To continue on that path, however, there was no getting around it: Donavan needed to advance his education.

Back to School After 20 Years

Twenty years after becoming an LPN, Donavan started an LPN-RN program at Schillers International University. He was pleasantly surprised to find an encouraging environment, and graduated in 2017. Once he became a licensed RN, Donavan joined HCA Florida Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg as a critical care nurse. He worked primarily in the neuro and cardiovascular intensive care units.

When the opportunity to become a nurse manager arose, Donavan started researching BSN programs. “I really loved my role helping new nurses grow into their roles and contributing to a positive culture and environment at our hospital,” he says. “I felt that a BSN would help me a lot.” Donavan reached out to two schools that are educational partners of HCA, and had the best impression of American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University. He started the BSN in 2019, but within a few months, he decided to go for the RN to MSN, Nursing Education specialization.

A Goal to Work in Nursing Education

From his first class at Post, Donavan knew that his goal was to work in education in some capacity. “I’ve worked with many nurses in the hospital, and I feel that I have the experience and approach to really help them while they are learning and growing,” he says. After completing the BSN portion of the RN to MSN in 2022, Donavan moved into a clinical nurse educator role at NCA West Florida. He supports nurses’ education and training.

Eventually, Donavan hopes to teach new nurses in an academic setting as well. “I want to give new nurses the foundation they need to learn and succeed,” he says. “I hope I can inspire and support them, drawing on my own experience.”

A Lifechanging Educational Experience

Donavan expects to complete the RN to MSN Nursing Education degree in fall 2023. He’s planning to start the DNP Educational Leadership program at American Sentinel in early 2024. After he graduates with the MSN, Donavan hopes to obtain an adjunct teaching position and continue applying all that he has learned at HCA.

“My experience at American Sentinel College at Post University has been life-changing and given me a foundation to pursue my goals of teaching new nurses,” Donavan says. “I’ve put a lot into my education, and the program has been exceptional in helping me grow. Now I want to help strengthen the profession I care about by inspiring other nurses to grow and succeed too.”