Critical Care Travel Nurse Turns Her Career to Teaching

“It’s been a big benefit of going back to school—I’m able to give more to my patients,” says Sandy Brickel, RN-BSN nursing student.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and was updated October 2013.

Sandy Brickel, American Sentinel nursing student, recently spoke with OR Today about her experience as a nurse. From deciding to get her online nursing degree from American Sentinel University to applying her personal struggles to her professional agenda, Brickel stresses the need for more nursing educators in the medical field. She strongly emphasizes the importance of an advanced degree.

“We need to focus on that,” Brickel told OR Today. “We need to get more educators in the classroom to teach nursing students. There’s so few of them I think we need focus more on looking at that issue.”

We encourage you to read her story published in the October 2013 edition of OR Today here.

ORIGINAL POST as published in May 2013:

Two major factors led Sandy Brickel back to school 20 years after earning her LPN at Ivy Tech State College: concerns about the toll that the physical aspects of her job might take on her body long-term, and the fact that her own children were off to college.

“I know that I can’t do what I do right now for the rest of my life because it is so strenuous on the body,” says Sandy, who earned an associate degree and became a Registered Nurse in 1998. Throughout her career, she has worked in critical care, stepdown/telemetry and as a travel nurse in her home state of Indiana and all over the U.S. “Also, my oldest two children are going to college right now. I wanted to prove to my kids that I could do this.”

A Robust Career

Having spent most of her career working with chronically, critically ill patients, Sandy knew that a BSN degree would supplement her specialized critical care certification and give her the ability to better serve her patients. “I found American Sentinel University and liked what they had to offer,” she says. “The structure of the classes and the student support especially mattered. I hadn’t been in school for a long time. I felt very comfortable with American Sentinel. I decided to go there because I knew they would be there for me.”

In fall 2011, Sandy began the RN to BSN program. What she gained most, she says, is knowledge she can apply directly to her job as a nurse at a long-term acute care facility. “It’s been a big benefit of going back to school—I’m able to give more to my patients,” Sandy says. After two years of hard work—she continues to work the third shift all night, homeschool her 12-year-old daughter and care for her mother during the day—Sandy graduated in February 2013. In March, she got married. “Without my children and my husband, I couldn’t have made it here. They pushed me along.”

Expanding More Than Just Her Knowledge Base

“I’ve expanded my horizons thanks to American Sentinel,” Sandy says. “I see the world very differently and have gained insights and knowledge about promoting health and preventing disease.”

Through the support of her student success advisor, Jordan Bresnahan, and her nursing professors, Sandy was able to grow as a leader and professional as well.

Thanks to a nomination by Jordan, she got involved in American Sentinel’s Admissions, Retention and Commencement Committee and Policies and Procedures Committee. In 2012, Sandy was also invited to join the Indiana Nurses Association Legislative Network Task Force.

“The nursing profession provides the fundamental tools to be a lifelong learner,” said Elaine Foster, Ph.D., MSN, RN, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Nursing Programs at American Sentinel University. “The very nature of what we teach: to be an advocate for the patient, to continually practice nursing ethics and to make sound judgments, allow for our students to apply these lessons throughout their professional and personal lives.”

“The indispensability of our RN to BSN program is that it leads the way to new avenues of thinking,” said Foster. “Our role in a student’s life is to help bridge them from wherever they are to help them move forward to where they would like to be,” Foster adds.

Drawn to Teach

Throughout her two decades as a nurse, Sandy has discovered a passion for her field and now knows what her next calling is: teaching. “I have come to a point in my life where I have deep understanding of how patient care issues affect the outcomes of care,” she says. The idea of training other nurses is especially exciting. “My passion is in the management of others’ health. I feel I can truly make a difference as a teacher.”

Sandy enjoyed her American Sentinel experience so much that she is now enrolled in the MSN program, nursing education specialization. When she completes her MSN online degree, she plans to earn the case management specialization as well—and her Doctor of Nursing Practice. “I just love the learning atmosphere at American Sentinel. I’ve loved my experience.”

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