Doctor of Nursing Practice
“I love kids. They are so honest and open. Pediatrics offers such a variety. I can’t imagine practicing in any other specialty.”
Shelley Ahrens is always looking ahead to the next adventure. She completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in 2012 and currently works at Mayo Clinic’s Pediatric Diagnostic and Referral Clinic in Rochester, Minn., with a focus on adolescents with autonomic dysfunction, a condition that causes severe fatigue.
Ahrens’ nursing journey started at the University of Iowa, where she completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She worked as a staff nurse in pediatric intensive care for several years before looking ahead to the next adventure. Ahrens completed her first advanced practice degree in the pediatric nurse practitioner specialty at the University of Minnesota in 2001, through a master’s program that has since been replaced by the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
“At a certain point I became very comfortable with my clinical skills: they were second nature to me.,” she said. “I decided I wanted to grow into leadership and management, redesigning and changing systems.”
In 2009, Ahrens returned to the University of Minnesota to complete the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, the highest nursing practice degree available. Living 100 miles from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, she appreciated the partially online format that enabled her to keep her job at Mayo Clinic.
“The surprise for me was the tremendously awesome faculty. Their commitment to my development as a nurse leader was exceptional,” she said. “Today, when I have an idea or problem, I’m part of a community of colleagues where I can ask questions and brainstorm solutions.”
Today, Ahrens says she is involved in a range of very interesting and fulfilling work at Mayo Clinic from care coordination and diagnosis for newborns to kids with chronic pain to youth with autonomic dysfunction.
“I have noticed that since completing my DNP, people seek out my advice and ask me to participate in discussions about redesign,” she said. “Through my advanced practice education, I have become a new person. I think differently and ask questions at meetings that would not have occurred to me before.”
With an ever-expanding resume of educational and advanced practice experience, Ahrens says she hopes her next adventure involves teaching.