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Spotlight on Walden // May 01, 2017

Must Love Science

Kylie Yearwood, center, with her family Kylie Yearwood, center, with her family

Kylie Yearwood, a Master of Science in Nursing graduate and PhD in Nursing student, transforms her love of science into her life purpose.

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 will interview professionals and doctoral graduates who pursued their educational dreams, overcame challenges, and went on to lead successful and diverse careers.

Kylie Yearwood was interested in science from a young age, and as a high schooler, she was on the Science Olympiad team and competed in cell biology events at state tournaments. So no one was surprised when her love of science influenced her to pursue a career in healthcare.

Although she briefly contemplated becoming a physician, at the time, she had no interest in spending 8 years in college. “I wanted to do something I could start immediately,” Yearwood recalls. “I was thinking about other areas of healthcare where I could take care of people and learn about medicine and the way diseases work.”

Yearwood earned an associate degree and became a nurse in 2001. She worked as a staff nurse in labor and delivery and occupational health but fell in love with the emergency room. For more than a decade, she worked in the ER as a staff nurse, then a charge nurse, and eventually a nurse educator.

“While still working in the emergency room, I began teaching nursing at a local technical college,” Yearwood says. “I could not teach beyond the [licensed practical nurse] program level because I only had an associate degree, yet I wanted to teach registered nurses like me.”

She knew she had to have at least a master’s degree to teach RNs, so the full-time nurse, wife, and mother of three opted for Walden’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with a specialization in Nursing Education.

“I thought, if I’m going to do this, it’s going to have to be online and I’ll have to fit it in when I can because I don’t have time to go to a physical location for classes,” Yearwood says.

While Yearwood pursued her MSN from Walden as a first-time online student, the technical school where she was teaching started transforming their approach to online learning.

“When I started teaching, we only kept grades and tests online,” she says. “Over the time I was there, there were increased opportunities for hybrid coursework. This correlated well with my master’s education because I was able to develop a practical nursing leadership course that could be utilized as a completely online course.”

Just four months after completing her MSN in 2014, Yearwood was on the phone with Walden enrolling in a doctoral degree program. “I made lots of jokes when I was in my master’s program about how I would never be like those crazy people who go for a doctoral degree,” she says. “I just wanted to finish school and do what I wanted to do and live my happy little life.”

But a friend encouraged her to pursue her PhD—and she still loved science.

Yearwood says the PhD in Nursing program exposed her to so many ideas about learning, knowledge, and research. Her specialization in Interdisciplinary Health requires her to take leadership and education classes, which have proven helpful in her current role managing an occupational health clinic for WeCareTLC at KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia.

“I am able to translate immediately what I learn in class at work, which is one of the things that I really enjoy about online learning,” Yearwood says. “Sometimes you can even integrate it back into your online class assignments.”

Her main interests are education and public policy in healthcare. “My heart as a nurse is in the emergency room, and I am interested in exploring the patient experiences of underserved populations going to the ER for primary care services,” she says, adding that a lot of people who live in her region in Georgia either don’t have access to or don’t have the money to see a primary care physician, so they use the ER for non-urgent and primary needs.

“I feel that I need to do whatever I can as a nurse to make sure people can affordably and easily access the quality healthcare they need,” Yearwood says.

When she began her journey at Walden, she never considered the possibility that she could be a social change agent—but she is.

“My PhD is going to take me to a place where I can make a difference,” she says, “and that means more to me than just about anything.”

Her next stop is a 3-week tour around the U.S. in an RV with Roadtrip Nation, where she will meet with influential people within the nursing field and learn about their goals and how they got to where they are.

“In addition to becoming a professor, there are so many other ways of using a doctoral degree,” Yearwood says. “I intend to learn what those opportunities are.”

Follow the journey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #DoctoralRoadtrip and at