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When Keelin Cromar met her future husband in the fall of her senior year of college, a 20-year adventure began. The following spring, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a Colorado university. Her husband graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy. “We got married just before he was to start medical school in Washington, D.C.,” recalls Keelin.

Soon, Keelin was living across the country—a big change from her small Wyoming hometown. She took and passed the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) and started her nursing career at a family practice clinic in Germantown, Maryland, before obtaining a highly competitive pediatric clinical research nurse position at the National Institutes of Health.

Broad Experience in Multiple Settings

Keelin’s husband’s military career began in 2003, and the couple has lived at nine different military duty stations. Moving so often has meant that Keelin has taken available nursing positions in each new place she’s lived. “I’ve learned to be adaptable,” she says. “Each new job gave me a different perspective on nursing.”

Keelin has gained a range of clinical experience—mainly pediatric, oncology, venous access and hospice—in settings as varied as a rural community hospital, home health and a large, urban hospital.

Along the way, she pursued a master’s degree in nursing education in an online hybrid program at the encouragement of her husband, who she describes as her “biggest cheerleader.” “I started out in that university’s nurse practitioner program while we were in San Antonio, but we moved to Rapid City and I got a job as an adjunct clinical instructor at a university. I loved it and fell in love with teaching,” Keelin says. She switched to the nursing education program.

Helping Students Find Their Way as an Educator

While in school, Keelin worked as a part-time nurse and an adjunct clinical instructor in a Rapid City technical college’s LPN program. Then it was off to Boston, where she continued teaching and working as a venous access nurse while finishing up the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The year 2011 brought another new adventure to Keelin’s life: she became pregnant with her first child. She moved to Ohio, had her daughter, then finished her MSN nursing education. In Ohio, she joined two colleges as a nursing instructor.

Keelin says she has found her passion in teaching. “Putting students in situations where they learn is immensely rewarding,” she says. Shifting her nursing education has also allowed Keelin to balance her life as a military wife and mother of two young daughters, the second born in 2013. She also started contributing content for nursing textbooks to two different publishers in 2015, and continues to do so today. “Teaching fits my life and my skill set. I love people. I love watching them learn and succeed.”

Fulfilling a Dream to Earn a Doctorate

Since she began teaching, Keelin has wanted to pursue a doctorate. After moving in 2019 from Mississippi—where she was an adjunct instructor at a community college in the Associate Degree of Nursing program—to Texas, she had every intention of enrolling in school. However, her husband was deployed to Kuwait in January 2020 for 10 months.

When Keelin moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, in 2021 and obtained a part-time nursing faculty position at Midwestern State University, her schedule finally looked like it would allow her to return to school. Keelin learned about the Doctor of Nursing Practice – Educational Leadership Specialization at American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University, from a former colleague-turned-mentor. “The ability to draw on my varied experience was very appealing, and it was clear that this is a military friendly university,” she says. Keelin started the DNP – Educational Leadership Specialization in April 2022.

A New Opportunity

While earning a doctorate is a personal goal and dream, Keelin says that each course teaches her something new and makes her a better teacher. In August 2023, her hard work was rewarded with a new opportunity: she was hired as an Assistant Professor at Midwestern State.

Keelin is targeting a fall 2024 completion date for her DNP. The investment has been a worthwhile challenge and a true test of her resilience and commitment. “I’m really enjoying this program,” Keelin says. “I like that I’ve found a community of professionals from all over the U.S. who are doing amazing things. I’m already doing what I love, so the learning process is what is especially valuable. Earning the DNP – Educational Leadership keeps me on the edge of education.”