All of her life, April Stidham, DNP, ARNP, FNP-C, has been drawn to the career of nursing. Even as child, she watched hospital shows like Emergency!, admiring the nurse featured on the show, Nurse Dixie. "She possessed self-confidence, self-assuredness, professionalism, and intelligence. I admired her leadership and interaction with patients, emergency responders, and doctors," she recalls.
Today, Stidham is the Program Director for the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner programs at South University, Tampa, and has 35 years of experience practicing in Virginia, Washington, Tennessee, and Florida.
She got started in the field right out of high school with an associate’s degree program in nursing, earning her degree at 19 and her RN license by age 20. As her responsibilities grew and she took on more administrative roles, Stidham continued her education, earning a BSN in 1995 and completing an MSN-FNP program in 1997.
Over the course of her career, Stidham has worked in several internal medical practices as well as a variety of hospital departments, long-term care settings, and family health clinics. She has had numerous peer-publications and professional presentations, helped to secure a handful of research grants, and been involved in almost a dozen clinical studies.
"I love being a nurse practitioner," she says. "I try to empower my patients through education and letting them take charge and responsibility of managing their health, with me being there to offer support as their primary care provider."
Over time, her interest in educating patients evolved into a desire to educate students as well. She first dabbled in teaching after earning her MSN and taking on adjunct faculty roles from 1998 to 2000 and then 2003 to 2006 at the University of Virginia. These experiences inspired her to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2011 and to pursue additional teaching opportunities.
"I wanted to be able to teach students and give back what I had learned over the years from my nursing career as an RN and as an advanced practice nurse," she explains.
Equipped with her DNP, Stidham accepted a position at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), where she served as an Assistant Professor and later DNP Coordinator over a 5-year period, teaching and developing courses from the bachelor’s to doctoral level.
While there, she was also a family nurse practitioner in the ETSU Nurse Managed Clinics, including the University Student Health Center and Johnson City Community Health Center—providing primary care to uninsured or underinsured adults with multiple chronic conditions and acute and chronic diseases in rural northeast Tennessee. Within these clinics, she ran an interprofessional, student-led clinic, with the university’s DNP, BSN, pharmacy, nutrition, social work, clinical psychology, and medical students. She earned the ETSU College of Nursing Nurse of the Year – Service Award in 2014 and the Nurse of the Year – Practice Award in 2015.
In 2017, Stidham joined South University as Program Director for Tampa's MSN programs. In her role as a mentor and instructor, Stidham enjoys getting to know and interact with each of her MSN students. "It is very rewarding to see my advanced practice nursing students grow, mature, transition to using their new knowledge, and eventually gain confidence in managing patient care," she says.
Being a good nurse, she believes, is in large part driven simply by having the compassion, caring, and desire to take care of others. Education and mentorship are also important keys to success, she advises.
"The best way for a nursing professional to grow their skills and their career is to establish a good relationship with an experienced nurse, to listen to and accept constructive feedback, and to allow yourself to gain experience and confidence as a nurse before moving to the next level of higher education."
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