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How did I get here? Navigating a Career in the Association World

How did I get here? Navigating a Career in the Association World

By Dawn Herman, Director of Professional Development

The Places My Journey Has Taken Me

My journey started—as my dad tells the story—at the age of 11 when I came home and announced, “I want to be a nurse when I grow up.” I don’t quite remember this, but I did focus my energy on becoming a nurse. It wasn’t an easy path, especially since I was on my own to figure out how to fund my pursuit. Challenge accepted! I applied for and won an Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship, which meant that not only was I going to college to become a nurse but also to prepare me to become an officer in the Army. While in college, I joined an all-girls team to train for and participate in an Army Ranger competition. I also went to jump school and became certified Airborne. All of this was done with the plan that my career path was set—I was going to graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing and become an officer in the Army. My ultimate goal was to be assigned to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit. My path was set.

A Change in Direction

As Dr. Seuss says in his book Oh, The Place You Will Go, “And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening, too.” Well, that’s when life threw me a curve ball—I graduated college, but my military career ended before it ever started. I found that my path changed in a direction I never expected—one that pointed to no job waiting for me after college.

Dawn HermanUltimately, I found a job that took me to Sioux City, IA, and spent 2 years working in an emergency department, learning how to be a great emergency nurse. My nursing career allowed me to move around and work in several different emergency departments as well as provide prehospital care for a private ambulance company. I learned a lot from these experiences, making great friends and memories, but I still felt unfulfilled. Something was missing. I needed the challenge of being a leader, which is what I hoped to gain with the military. This brought me to another fork in the road, and I went back to school to get my Master of Business Administration degree so I could climb the hospital leadership track. As I did this, I found that hospitals often had nurse educators who didn’t understand the practice of emergency nursing. This led me to not only become the leader of my unit but also the educator, developing a new graduate nursing program to train new nurses how to become proficient emergency nurses.

Finding My Place

One day, a new opportunity came my way: the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) asked me to develop education for nurses at the national level. My decision to leave bedside nursing for leadership helped to fulfill me, but even the challenge of leadership wasn’t enough to keep me fully engaged. I found that the time I spent teaching and training was when I felt the most happy and driven in the right direction. So, I decided to leave the hospital and apply my skills as an educator at the ENA.

Since then, I have had more twists and turns in my career path, but what I found is that my clinical background and skills have an application in the association world. My background allows me to see things from a variety of perspectives and helps me to understand the needs of those whom I am helping when I develop education and training. In the end, my desire always has been to serve and help others in their time of need, and I find I’m doing exactly that by developing education now for the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA). I also have a greater impact on patients, as my ripple of influence is so much greater at this level. These experiences have taught me that life’s journey isn’t always a straight path, but I can enjoy and learn from the times when the path is bumpy, winding, and twisting. Just remember to keep your end goal in mind at all times as your guidepost and you’ll never lose your way.

Dawn Herman serves as director of professional development for the .

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