Taking It All In

Emily Schumacher ‘10 is savoring every minute of her five-year, part-time DNP program.

Nursing was not Emily Schumacher’s first career choice. A podiatrist’s daughter and valedictorian of her high school class, Schumacher headed to Madison in search of a major that would prepare her to attend medical school or enroll in a physician’s assistant program after college. Soon after arriving on campus, she began volunteering at UW Hospital to get healthcare experience. To develop her science skills, she got a job as a technician in a lab. At the same time, Schumacher considered majors in education administration, food science, and dietetics with hopes of finding a good fit. Despite her earnest exploration, nothing felt quite right.

“I was all over the place for a while,” she says.

Eager to make a decision, Schumacher reflected on her experiences. She liked the health promotion aspect of dietetics and food science. Education spoke to her desire to help and make a difference in people’s lives. And while she liked the scientific rigor of her lab work, she found herself craving human interaction all day. Growing increasingly committed to healthcare, Schumacher paid closer attention during her shifts at the hospital to determine who did what and how they did it. Suddenly, the major that had eluded her came into clear focus.

“I found what I was supposed to do. It was nursing,” she says. “It was a combination of all the things I love.”

Schumacher graduated in 2010 and entered practice in an oncology, neurology, and neurosurgery unit at American Family Children’s Hospital. Three years later, she enrolled part-time in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which she will complete this spring.

While Schumacher will celebrate her new degree with all the typical fanfare in May, she is not overly focused on crossing the threshold. Rather, she is relishing one last year of being a DNP student.

“Her desire for knowledge, to learn anything that will make her a better provider—that really stands out,” says Dr. Tracy Saladar, a clinical associate professor in the DNP program. “Emily is a go-getter. She really tries to soak it all up and grab onto any opportunity.”

That includes heading to Belize for a summer service learning course offered through the Physician’s Assistant program in 2016. While there she conducted pelvic exams, Pap smears, and cervical cancer screenings in a hurricane shelter that she and other students cleaned top to bottom before local families arrived for health services.

“I think it helped me become more adaptable to change. As a nurse and provider, you never really know what’s going to come through the door,” Schumacher says. “And when it’s 90 degrees and you’ve sweated through your scrubs in the first hour, you really become appreciative of the healthcare system we have here, especially in Madison.”

Schumacher was one of three nursing students who participated in the program that year. When she returned home, she and another nursing student presented a poster about the value of the interprofessional learning opportunity at a Wisconsin Nurses Association meeting.

“I take part in interdisciplinary care all the time. On this trip, we all learned so much from each other,” Schumacher says. “It was an incredible experience and I would go back in a heartbeat.”

Schumacher is not heading back to Belize, but she is traveling to Malawi with Clinical Professor Karen Solheim to co-lead the BSN summer global immersion trip to Malawi this summer. She has also made an impact closer to home. Schumacher founded the School of Nursing’s undergraduate pediatric interest group and co-founded the graduate DNP/PhD journal club. With an article published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, Schumacher is one of the first DNP students to have her work appear in a scholarly journal.

Schumacher also serves on the School of Nursing Board of Visitors, which gives her the opportunity to share her perspective and learn from the healthcare leaders who advise the school. “I’ve learned so much about how the university is run and the work that goes into getting alumni involved,” Schumacher says. “I would say this has been a life-changing experience, and I’ve met some incredible nurse leaders and alumni.”

In the seven years since she became a nurse, Schumacher has continued to demonstrate her commitment to learning, growth, and advocacy. She has maintained her nursing practice at UW Hospital, where she has precepted undergraduate students interested in pediatrics and invited others to shadow her. She developed a bicycle safety and free helmet program in Beloit. She wrote a letter to her congressional representative and then visited her in person to discuss post-secondary education options for youth with developmental disabilities. She served as a teaching assistant with Dr. Lori Anderson for a course exploring interdisciplinary care for children with chronic health care needs. She also completed one yearlong, 300-hour traineeship through the Waisman Center’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) and began another similar program for children with pulmonary conditions through the UW Pediatric Pulmonary Center.

Schumacher also attends to life outside of nursing. Since beginning her DNP program, she has gotten married, adopted two dogs, and continued to volunteer at a teen summer leadership camp. And though she is not in the kitchen as much as she would like to be, she did manage to squeeze in a Korean cooking class. Spreading out her education also gave her more time to develop her leadership skills, which she expects to use fully over the course of her career. “The more leadership skills you develop,” Schumacher says, “the more you can advocate for patients and for your fellow nurses.”


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