Coming Into Focus
Editor’s Note: Kylie Yearwood is one of three doctoral students participating in the making of Roadtrip Nation’s new 1-hour documentary made possible by Walden University, to discover the importance of achieving the highest degree. While traveling around the U.S. in an RV for 3 weeks, the students interviewed professionals and doctoral graduates who pursued their educational dreams, overcame challenges, and went on to lead successful and diverse careers.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever feel completely normal again after the trip,” says Kylie Yearwood, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) graduate and PhD in Nursing student. “Every single leader we met was phenomenal and had something powerful to say. Even though it may have been something off the cuff that didn’t mean much to them, it meant a lot to us.”
Yearwood spoke with Dr. Mansi Kasliwal at the Palomar Observatory in California. “She said something that struck me, which was a quote from famed astronomer George Ellery Hale. It was, ‘Make no small plans and dream no small dreams,’” recalls Yearwood, who reached out to Roadtrip Nation because she felt there was something more she wanted to do or needed to accomplish within the field of nursing. “Dr. Kasliwal reinforced the importance of not stopping with what you think is normal or what you’re supposed to do. Instead, go for the thing you want to do.”
This pushed Yearwood, who had always intended to use her doctorate to teach at the university level. “That may still be what I end up doing, but since the trip I feel like there’s more in me. I see the possibilities and I’m not scared to think of doing something different. I will likely still teach in some form, but I’m also considering other things that are important and can affect other people and create positive social change.”
While Yearwood is still in the process of figuring out what that is exactly, her journey has clearly changed her. “It’s hard to describe,” she says. “The world seems bigger to me but it also seems smaller. It’s almost like there’s this puzzle of me: what I’m going to become and what I’m going to do. It’s not completely obvious yet what the picture is, but it’s so much clearer than what it used to be. This trip helped me fill in so many pieces of the puzzle, and I feel a lot closer to knowing what it is I’m supposed to do.”
Perhaps it was Yearwood’s meeting with Dr. Pamela Cipriano, the president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), which occurred right outside the organization’s government affairs division. “I’m really into policy right now,” says Yearwood, who decided to take a Governance and Public Policy elective as part of her PhD program. “The current health legislation affects me and my family but also my career. I never thought I could be a person at the table making those changes or informing those decisions, but seeing how nurses work in government affairs was inspiring. Nurses can advocate not just for their patients but for groups of people, populations, and underserved populations that need health care and better access.”
Fresh off the 38-foot RV, which was lovingly nicknamed Thelma, Yearwood is happy to be home with her husband, David, and their three children. “I think I may have had a harder time on the trip because I missed my family so much, but I couldn’t have done it without David, who said, ‘You just do your thing; we’ve got this handled.’” She hopes to inspire her children to do things that scare them and to welcome opportunities that come along.
Though her trip across the country has ended, Yearwood’s journey continues. “I feel like every time I take a new course at Walden, there’s more for me to learn from the material and content but also more about myself and more about learning,” she says. “I feel like I am growing in my ability to be confident and do the things that I need and want to do with my career.”