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Spotlight on Walden Alumni: Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman

Her passion for lifelong learning led to a master’s degree in nursing and a health services PhD.

As Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman’s LinkedIn page will tell you, she is an author, speaker, nurse educator, and caregiver advocate—four roles that just scratch the surface of a career that began in 1985, when she graduated from nursing school.

But as Dr. Hickman tells her story, it was the first role of her life that was the most formative: daughter of Shibbolethia B. Lewis, who was an educator and writer in the Toledo, Ohio, public school system.

Spotlight on Walden Alumni: Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman

“My mother … did an amazing job encouraging my sisters and me to become lifelong learners. She would remind us that there is no such thing as boredom. We will never know everything, so learn something new at every opportunity and never cry over spilled milk. She said, ‘Clean it up and keep going.’ The motto was ‘learn and grow, grow and learn.’ ”

That motto is reflected throughout Dr. Hickman’s CV. She earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from Walden University in 2009, and received her PhD in Health Services in 2016. She is the 2019 Walden University Social Change Fellow and grant recipient. She spent 25 years as a cardiology case manager and heart failure patient educator at CHI St. Luke’s Health in Houston, Texas. She has also written and contributed to a number of academic and nonacademic journals.

We sat down with Dr. Hickman recently to learn more about her professional experiences and achievements, and to find out what’s next.

WALDEN: What would you single out as your biggest accomplishment so far?
DR. HICKMAN: My biggest accomplishment aside from achieving my PhD is writing my first book, From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor. It tells my 20-year journey of caring for my mother, who died in 2017. The experiences, the joys, the pain, the sadness, the loneliness are found in the pages of this book, and I believe it will help all who read it. I do hope to one day see the book in nursing school programs to help nursing students gain insight into how to become a proactive nurse and practitioner.

WALDEN: We understand there is a nursing scholarship in your name. Can you tell us more about that?
DR. HICKMAN: I received a $50,000 Johnson & Johnson Community Health Care Leadership Award for community service in the wake of Hurricane Katrina for providing nursing services to Katrina's evacuees at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. The Cynthia J. Hickman “Pay It Forward” Nursing Scholarship was developed with the fund to help future nurses interested in advancing the quality of care in the community pay for their education.

WALDEN: As you looked to advance your education, what made you choose Walden over other universities?
DR. HICKMAN: I chose Walden for the independence of the journey. I could still work, and when I became a full-time caregiver, I could continue my studies. Despite my brand-new role of caregiver to my mother, I achieved my MSN with a specialization in Nursing Education. I further liked the concept of being a social change agent. Working in the world for the greater good suited me.

WALDEN: How has earning your PhD helped you further contribute to the nursing profession?
DR. HICKMAN: It allowed me to pursue my goal of teaching in an academic setting. Most of the colleges and universities wanted a terminal degree. I went after mine! And got it!

WALDEN: Houston is known for its high diversity compared to other cities in the U.S. How has this diversity impacted you in your practice?
DR. HICKMAN: We are considered the melting pot where all backgrounds come and are welcomed. Taking care of patients as well as teaching students from different backgrounds is a learning opportunity. Diversity for me is God’s gift to all. I just wish we would embrace it more as a society.

WALDEN: You are involved in a number of organizations. Can you tell us more about your activities?
DR. HICKMAN: Being a part of the Walden International Club at Walden University and my nursing sorority has been rewarding. I am a member of Zeta Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority and serve as the health advocacy chair. Each organization has the potential to address diversity, culture, and legislation on a national level that impacts the nursing profession, healthcare delivery system, and global community. If there was ever a time to explore and be a part of the solution to today’s many concerns, the time is now—when COVID-19 has invaded our land, systemic racism is before us, and being silent is not acceptable. We all can impact our space in our communities.

WALDEN: You had a unique opportunity to learn about police work in your own community of Missouri City, Texas. Can you please tell us about that?
DR. HICKMAN: I am a 2019 graduate of the Missouri City Police and Fire Citizen Academy. The purpose of this intensive program was to learn about police and fire department processes and skill sets. In our current climate, this knowledge has helped me help others by deescalating and explaining that those who protect and serve us are our friends and not foes … knowing there will always be work to do to ensure those in blue are public servants.

WALDEN: As you look toward the future, what’s next?
DR. HICKMAN: The lifelong experiences and opportunities I’ve gained over the years have positioned me to help prepare the generations coming after me. So, one may ask, how is this done? Speaking engagements of course, writing about current events, volunteering, and sharing my gifts and talents with others. I would love to do this on a national and international front. I have my eyes on being a commencement speaker at my alma mater—Walden University. It’s in my future! I would also like to use my expertise in helping our growing senior population enjoy their wonder years with grace and dignity.

Learn and Grow With an MSN Degree

Dr. Hickman says earning her twin degrees—a health services PhD and a master’s in nursing online—was “fundamental to my future goals.” And the flexibility of online education helped her achieve them. You can earn a master’s degree in nursing, too, while balancing work and family responsibilities.

“In my case, as a caregiver, I worked between many challenges—challenges I would do again, if I could,” she says.

Walden’s MSN degree program offers two categories of specializations that let you pair your studies with your career interests. If providing direct patient care is your goal, choose from four nurse practitioner specializations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner.

Specialty practice specializations can help prepare you for advanced leadership or education roles. Choose from Public Health Nursing, Nurse Executive, Nursing Education, and Nursing Informatics.

Depending on your experience and training, an MSN can help prepare you for roles that include:

  • Nurse supervisor
  • Nurse educator
  • Nurse manager
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner
  • Mental health nurse
  • Family nurse practitioner

A master’s in nursing may be the steppingstone you need to advance your career and achieve your goals. Walden’s online degree program can give you the knowledge and skills to help get you to that next level.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program with multiple specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,