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The benefits of lifelong learning

Get to know Ingrid Johnson, a DNP graduate from 2017 and one of more than 17,000 Edson College alumni worldwide


Portrait of ASU Edson College alumna Ingrid Johnson.

Edson College alumna Ingrid Johnson shares how her degree program propelled her forward in her career and equipped her with the tools necessary to tackle any challenge.

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March 22, 2022

When Ingrid Johnson was an undergraduate, she wasn’t really sure if she was on the right path. At the time, she was pursuing a Bachelor of Science in nursing.

“I was ambivalent as a BSN student and early on questioned my decision to be a nurse as I wasn't sure I really fit in the box of what a nurse was supposed to be,” Johnson said.

She decided to stay the course, relying on her intuition that as a nurse she’d have a variety of options outside the box. Now, not only is she a nurse, but she’s an advanced practice nurse, having graduated from Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation in 2017 with an advanced nursing practice (innovation leadership) DNP.

“I was able to create my own path and feel that my calling was to support nursing practice and expand the role of the nurse so everyone, everywhere has access to quality nursing care, either at the bedside, specialty care, primary care or advanced practice level. Now I have a job that didn't even exist when I first became a nurse. More education is never bad. I am so pleased I didn't stop learning,” she said.

Johnson is the president and CEO of the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence. During her time in the DNP Innovation Leadership program, she continued to work full time at the center, though in a different role.

Her DNP project was focused on growing programs for advanced practice registered nurses in rural areas. Johnson’s passion for that work carried over to her day job after graduation.

“I continued to work on that and brought in several million dollars of funding to support building APRNsadvanced practice registered nurses in rural and underserved communities across Colorado," she said. "The United Health Foundation read my initial article on the project in Nursing Administration Quarterly and we have now expanded the project from an FNPfamily nurse practitioner focus to add PMHNPspsychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.”

Even as she was promoted, Johnson remained committed to the program, and in 2021, she was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing on the power of that work.

Below Johnson describes how her time at Edson College propelled her forward in her career and equipped her with the tools necessary to tackle any challenge. 

Question: How did your degree program help you in achieving and maintaining the position you have now? 

Answer: The real reason I sought a doctorate was that I knew education teaches us to think differently and ask different questions. One of the hardest realities for me was identifying that the more I learn, the more aware I am of how much more there is to learn. This degree reminds me of that as I continue to learn new things from my staff and the world around me on a daily basis. It has been humbling and very gratifying. 

As a leader, my job is to help every member of my team be at their best. I believe that achieving this degree has opened my heart to look outside my own ideas and better listen and learn from those around me so we can innovate to support, and in the time of COVID, rebuild our health care and nursing workforce. I didn't have the tools to really do that prior to this degree, but now I often have the right tools, and if I don't have the right tools, I have the resources to figure out what tools I need and how to get them

Q: What is a favorite memory from your time in your program? 

A: Kathy Malloch and Tim Porter-O'Grady taught our first DNP course and we were to focus on innovating. After our first assignment, they pulled no punches and told us to think bigger, more creatively, and get out of our own way. I realized that in my whole career as a nurse and life as a student, we were told to follow the evidence and only do what we were told to do. Nurses follow evidence-based practice, so there was never the space to think outside the box. Now, we were in an innovation leadership program and we were not only permitted to think outside the box, but we were also expected to do so and seek the evidence to support it. 

It was scary, because over the years, I had been slapped down for not fitting the mold or for thinking of alternative ideas. When they told us that our job was to stop being a linear thinker and to find evidence around other less obvious solutions, it was incredibly freeing. I think we are born creative, and in an effort to learn evidence-based care and practice, we lose that, and often we are not permitted to find that side of ourselves again. 

This program helped me seek and find that side of myself that had been lost for so long. Now I can balance the desire to seek alternative solutions and see if there is any evidence to support those solutions, so I know we can be both evidence-based and non-linear in our problem-solving.

Q: What advice would you give to students who are currently enrolled in the program? 

A: Enjoy the process and embrace the reality that for the rest of your life, you will have more questions than answers ... and that is OK. Stay curious. Remember that when you get feedback that doesn't feel warranted, listen for what is true in the feedback. It can be your greatest gift. Even if only 2% of the negative feedback is correct, it may be exactly what you need. If you knew everything and did everything perfectly the first time out, you wouldn't need to be there.

Q: What were some unique challenges, if any, you had to overcome while pursuing this degree? 

A: I kept a full-time job throughout my education, and fitting in a job, parenting and school were very challenging. One day, my youngest approached me and said, "Mom, we never see your eyes anymore. You are always studying or working." It knocked me off my feet and I realized I needed to figure out some different habits so I wouldn't miss my kids’ lives. 

Also, my master's degree is in public policy, not nursing. So I had to revisit some foundational nursing courses, like nursing theory. It was initially a little frustrating, but then I realized that nursing theory is much more interesting to me now than it was in my BSN program. Again, I needed to open my heart and embrace the art and science of nursing. I didn't even know I had lost that side of my practice until I started this program.

To learn more about Edson College alumni activities, events and programming visit the alumni section of the college's website.

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