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VA Medical Center Nurse Prepares for Management with BSN

From high school to military life to becoming a LPN, Jeff Berendsen knew he wanted to continue to advance in his career. Finding the right fit and culture became apart of his journey.

The first time Jeff sought out college options, he says he “didn’t have a lot of direction,” which is why he enlisted in the military. After becoming an infantry medic and later, a licensed practical nurse (LPN), he found his niche: the juxtaposition of military life and healthcare.

“I worked in a physician’s practice, a nursing home and in a community health center,” Jeff says. “About 10 years into my career, I decided I really needed to further my education.” In 2007, Jeff earned his associate degree of nursing (ADN) from Bryant and Stratton College, but he didn’t stop there.

Landing a Job He Loves
In 2009, Jeff got a job at Lois Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, where he continued to work in surgical recovery nursing, which he had done as an LPN. “I’ve always liked surgery because patients come in with a problem, we heal them, and then they get to go home—usually cured of the problem. It’s very rewarding to send patients home and have them shake your hand on their way out.”

Once again, Jeff found himself wanting to deepen his knowledge and strengthen his career trajectory. “I knew that I wanted my career to be at the VA, and to move up in this system you need a bachelor’s or master’s [degree],” he says. He was awarded a scholarship from the VA and began to search for the right online university. “I needed a program where I could go at my own pace. I wanted an accredited university, and a program that would really benefit me in my job.”

Finding American Sentinel University
Jeff came across American Sentinel University in his search and says after one phone call, it just felt right. “When I talked to an advisor, I knew this was the place for me,” he says. “It’s the first thing I tell people about American Sentinel: every single advisor I’ve had has been fantastic. I love the courses, the class structure and the class pace, and I appreciate that American Sentinel is a military friendly university, but the advisors are what have made the difference.”

Starting college at 41-years-old as a husband and a father of two elementary-age children, Jeff had plenty of hurdles to overcome. “The program can be a lot of hard work, and I was terrified of the computer at first,” he says. “My life is very busy, but the support you get at American Sentinel helps a lot. I’ve been to several different colleges with my prior education, and this one has fit me the best — without a doubt.”

Moving Into Management
Jeff has one class left to complete his BSN. He plans to take a short break and then start American Sentinels’ graduate program — MSN, nursing management and organizational leadership specialization. His goal is to become the nurse manager of the surgical recovery unit in which he works. “I truly believe that you need to have worked in an area in order to run it well,” he says. “I’d love to have that opportunity, and it will be available to me after I get my master’s.”

The VA is where Jeff wants to stay. “I’m a lifer here,” he admits. “With my military background, coming to work here has been the right decision. There’s a certain bond that military veterans have with one another—like a brotherhood. Being a vet taking care of other vets is a great feeling.”

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