When Valerie Williams earned the BSN in 1987, it was not necessarily the frequently travelled path. Her mother, in fact, was the one to encourage Valerie to pursue more than an Associate Degree of Nursing, the standard at the time. “My mom cared for our grandparents when I was young, and I had an aunt who was in nursing,” says Valerie, a native of western New York. “My mom somehow had the wisdom that the BSN would be important down the road, even if it took me longer. I’m grateful that I followed her advice.”
A new opportunity—and further education
Valerie started her career with Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania as a staff nurse in the adult intensive care unit. In the mid-1990s, she had an opportunity to work in management for a home healthcare agency—her first foray into management. While there, Valerie earned a certificate in nursing management from Pennsylvania State University Schuylkill. “I took the clinical skills I had learned in the intensive care environment and applied it to the home health setting,” she says. “That combination of skills was a great asset to patients.”
Return to Geisinger
In 2002, Valerie returned to Geisinger, joining Geisinger Home Care in a flex role while raising her family. As time went on and her son grew older, she moved into the emergency room in 2008 as a quality coordinator. “I worked on projects to improve mortality rates of patients with sepsis and those who survived cardiac arrest,” she says. After 20 years, Valerie finally had the leadership opportunity she’d always wanted.
Bettering herself with an MSN
During her employee review in 2012, Valerie’s manager encouraged her to consider furthering her education. “American Sentinel University was a school I had heard great things about, so I figured I would try one class,” she says. Online learning appealed to her for its convenience as well as another important reason. “I’ve been in central Pennsylvania for a long time, and I liked the idea of getting to know other nurses from all over the country. I felt it would offer me different perspectives, and that was exciting for me.”
In 2013, a position opened up in Geisinger’s Shamokin Area Community Hospital: operations manager of the adult medical/surgical and orthopedic care center. “Progressing toward the MSN definitely opened up the door for this opportunity,” Valerie says. “I love this role because the adult intensive care unit was my first passion, and I’m now applying the clinical and leadership skills I’ve learned throughout my career and in school.”
Valerie graduated with the MSN, nursing management and organizational leadership specialization, in May 2015. Since graduation, she was given the additional responsibility to oversee her hospital’s special care unit.
With the MSN, Valerie says she has gained a skill she didn’t necessarily think about when she applied to American Sentinel. “Education gives you confidence,” she says. “Until I went to American Sentinel, I felt like I’d done many things that a master’s-prepared nurse does, but I didn’t have the degree to go with my level of expertise.”
Now that she has those credentials under her belt, Valerie is quick to encourage other nurses to pursue additional education. “We are a Magnet facility that holds all nurses to a high standard of excellence, so I tell my staff that earning the BSN or MSN is worthwhile and will help them do what they want to do in the long run,” she says. “And with the ability to go at your own pace and the great support at American Sentinel, I recommend the school all the time.”
Inspired by Valerie’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, or infection control. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.