Informatics Nursing Specialty Boosts Operating Room Clinical Director’s Journey in New Hospital Role

– RN to BSN/MSN Informatics Nursing Specialty Program Key to Fulfilling Nurse’s Career Goals –

AURORA, Colo. – November 22, 2016 – The complexity of healthcare offers today’s ambitious nurses no shortage of specialty areas where they can focus to reach career goals.  But first, nurses must have the required education.

“Experience must be coupled with a strong educational background – an advanced degree or certification of some type is increasingly desirable in the nursing profession,” says Karen Whitham, Ed.D., MSN, BSN, RN, Associate Dean, RN to BSN/MSN and General Education Programs at American Sentinel University.

Advanced education is now a must to rise through the ranks – even for veteran nurses like Sharon Sikora, an operating room clinical director at PIH Health Hospital – Whittier in California.

Sikora, a Michigan native, earned an associate degree in nursing and began her career in the cardiac step-down unit of Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan.

After spending 14 years in the hospital and working in the operating room and the open-heart surgery unit, she decided to further her education. Sikora wanted to expand her horizons beyond nursing and earned a bachelor’s degree in allied health at Siena Heights University.

Two life changes

After moving to the Chicago area, she landed at Evanston Hospital, a leader in cancer and cardiac care and now part of the NorthShore University HealthSystem (formerly part of Evanston Northwestern). She worked her way up from staff RN to the open heart and thoracic surgical areas to become a case manager of surgeries.

Later, Sikora joined a sister facility, Glenbrook Hospital, as manager of the operating and recovery rooms. She decided to pursue more education and earned a master of management at North Park University. She also holds a certificate as a Registered Nurse First Assistant.

Eager to make a life change, she moved to Laguna Hills, California and worked at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center as manager of the operating room.

A new chapter

Sikora became the executive director of surgical services and was interested in informatics. “I’m very intrigued by the way that data can help us as nurses predict recovery times and make a difference for patients,” she says. “I want to understand how what we do makes a difference so that we can be as helpful, efficient and effective as possible.”

She wanted a nursing program that would allow her to earn both a BSN and an MSN with an informatics specialization and discovered American Sentinel University. “With hospitals getting Magnet status, I knew that it was becoming more and more important for me to get my BSN and MSN, even though I have a lot of nursing experience.”  

“This is an exciting time to be a nurse to grow and expand their horizons. Our RN to BSN/MSN program emphasizes leading change, critical thinking, and use of evidence-based practice – all important criteria for the Magnet Recognition Program,” says Dr. Whitham. “Advanced education helps nurses develop critical thinking and better their communication skills, as well as, fostering an openness to new ideas and new models of care – resulting in the highest possible standard of patient care.”

Opportunity knocks

Sikora enrolled in the BSN program in 2014 and found it taught her more about healthcare than she had expected.

“We’ve gotten into areas like the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that nurses become baccalaureate prepared, the Healthy People 2020 national initiative and various things that impact the healthcare industry,” she says. “I’ve gained and learned more than I ever expected.”

To continue to challenge herself, Sikora pursued an opportunity with the Southern California-based PIH Health at the PIH Health Hospital – Whittier location, and in September 2016; she became the clinical director of the operating room and scheduling.

“I’ve always loved the operating room, and I’m excited about the new role,” she says. “It’s fun to become part of a new place. I am learning more as I begin this next adventure.”

She will complete her BSN this year and starts MSN course work immediately after that.

Opening doors for the future

Sikora feels confident that her education will strengthen her resume and boost her future career.

“I know having these degrees will open doors for me,” she says.

While the pursuit hasn’t been easy, she advises others working toward degrees while working full-time to keep moving forward. “I’ve told myself this whole time to take it one step, one paper, one class at a time. It’s hard work, but in the end, I know it’s worth it.”

Nurses inspired by Sikora’s story should consider an MSN program as a passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, or infection control.

“Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields,” says Dr. Whitham. “When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.”

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s CCNE-accredited online RN to BSN program or online RN to BSN/MSN program.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited online nursing degree programs in nursing, informatics, MBA Health Care, DNP Executive Leadership and DNP Educational Leadership. Its affordable, flexible bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission for the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The DNP program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The university is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The Accrediting Commission of DEAC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.