MSN Student Uses Online Education to Enhance Career and Advance into Leadership Role

– Nursing Student Overcomes Fears and Challenges of Going Back to School to Enjoy Satisfying Career Breakthroughs –

AURORA, Colo. – December 10, 2012 – For many students, education becomes an exciting journey characterized by playing the role of the novice and having to overcome the fear of failure. But for many working nurses, online education represents an opportunity to become an empowered nurse and make a positive difference in the lives of patients and peers in the nursing profession.

Kathie Pender, MBA, MSN, RN, director of patient care services who lives with her husband and two children in Northern Canada, had always been very open about how much she loved her work as a nurse, yet she wanted to advance her career.

Pender wanted to further her lifelong interest in nursing policies, governance and business – a specialty area that combines behind-the-scenes nursing knowledge with real-world, clinical applications. She decided that a CCME-accredited Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with a specialty in infection prevention and control at American Sentinel University was the best way to combine her business and nursing backgrounds and capitalize on the nursing trends of the future.

“I wanted to know more about how policies actually work and know how they impact the nursing environment,” says Pender.

Pender, like many adult students, wasn’t entirely sure what the adult education experience would be like. She had reasonable doubts about what exactly would be asked of her intellectually and how returning to school would impact her family and work commitments.

“Online education is flexible, effective and helps meets the needs of working nurses. The asynchronous format allows nurses to go back to school and not be limited by geography or very specific dates and times so that they can maintain both their nursing and family responsibilities,” says Dr. Judy Burckhardt, Ph.D., RN, dean, nursing programs at American Sentinel University.

Dr. Burckhardt notes that one of the most important roles that nurses fulfill in today’s health care systems is that of patient advocate.

Patient advocacy requires that nurses have a sense of empowerment, confidence and advanced knowledge to be able to navigate their way through any complex health care facility. Only advanced education provides nurses with knowledge and skills to become empowered nurses, which results in quality patient-centered care.

Learning to Think in New Ways

Pender’s first challenge to overcome was what she termed her ‘fear of the gray.’

The ‘gray,’ in Pender’s terminology, is a concern that she wouldn’t thrive in an environment that required abstract thinking. She worried that she wouldn’t be able to grasp conceptual ideas and that thinking in terms of broad concepts would conflict with her graduate training in business, which demands black-and-white solutions to problems.

Despite this concern, Pender thrived and succeeded in overcoming her ‘fear of the gray’ because she was able to identify with theories she was already using in her own daily practice as a nurse. The new concepts merely expanded on what she already knew.

“I broke the theories down piece by piece and compared them to my own nursing experiences. I found that theories are actually logical. They are truly systematic. They’re not conceptual gray at all. Theories are there for a purpose,” says Pender.

Her assessment was correct. Nursing theories are meant to be the underlying structure and the base of logic, which are required for nurses to apply autonomous, critical thinking skills.

Pender is now using her new perspectives and insights to help her nursing colleagues understand what health care policies mean to them clinically, professionally and emotionally.

“As an empowered nurse with advanced nursing knowledge, Kathie can overcome obstacles to fill an important role as patient advocate and make a difference in the lives of her patients and make valuable contributions to the nursing profession,” says Dr. Gloria Ohmart, Ed.D., MN, RN, associate dean, nursing undergraduate programs at American Sentinel University.

Juggling School, Work, Life and Family

Pender faced other daily challenges as well. She had doubts about her ability to balance her work and home life.

As a full-time nurse administrator, she worried that she wouldn’t have the time to be a successful student or do the kind of networking needed to access information. At the core of these concerns was her perception that her lack of advanced computer skills was a looming, ever-present disadvantage.

Pender was able to overcome these challenges, as most online students do. While American Sentinel’s student services resources offered multiple forms of student support to help tackle her computer challenges, Pender did sacrifice some personal time and some sleep until she devised a schedule that empowered her success.

“I got up at 5 a.m. and worked on course work until 7 a.m., when I’d leave for work. After work I’d fix dinner for the family along with lunches for the next day. Then, in the evening I would read or study, usually from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. On weekends, I could get a few more hours of study time in,” she says.

Pender was able to take a course per month and have them overlap. She opted to get her degree in a shorter timeframe, so she stayed dedicated to a rigorous schedule. This dedication allowed her to complete her degree in fewer than two years.

Becoming Comfortable with Technology

Pender’s next challenge was unfamiliarity with computers. She overcame this through brief interventions of excellent technical support from American Sentinel University combined with timely feedback from her professors. These two factors provided her with the confidence she needed and the assurance that she was making great progress.

“Courses are all in writing, so you can discuss them online. You can research them independently and receive feedback quickly,” says Pender.

She feels that the timeliness of the feedback from American Sentinel faculty allowed her to align her schedule with the time needed to thoughtfully answer discussion questions.

And while technical support from American Sentinel helped her manage the tactical side of using computers, the Internet and online forums, she’s also grateful for advice from other students and from her circle of family and friends. This transfer of knowledge helped her sharpen her computer skills quickly and effectively.

Climbing the Career Ladder

Today, Pender feels her newly earned MSN has greatly enhanced her nursing career.

“I am the Director of Nursing using a skill set that balances advanced nursing with crucial critical thinking skills. I understand concepts on a deeper level and I can research anything and write about anything pertaining to nursing. And that gives me tremendous credibility,” adds Pender.

More information or to register for American Sentinel University’s CCNE-accredited Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN), Infection Prevention and Control Specialization program.

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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 university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). The Accrediting Commission of DETC 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.