In 1987, on the final day of classes in her BSN program at Loyola University, Ida Benemerito says that the words of the dean of nursing hit her hard. “She stood in front of our graduating class and said, ‘Ladies, I expect each of you to earn your master’s degrees before you are 35 years old,’ says Ida, an Illinois native. “That really resonated with me and I never forgot it.”
With the goal of advancing her education in the back of her mind, Ida started her nursing career at Loyola University Medical Center’s hematology/oncology unit. Thereafter, she spent a year at Cedar’s Sinai in Beverly Hills, again in hematology/oncology, before returning to Chicago for a job in the telemetry unit of Swedish Covenant Hospital. She married and started a family, while continuing to advance her career. In 1991, Ida joined Lake Forest Hospital, a community hospital and Magnet facility. She worked as a staff nurse, case manager and nursing supervisor, but eventually became one of the infection prevention and control coordinators.
A new opportunity
In 2010, a former colleague encouraged Ida to apply for an open multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO) position at the brand new Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense and the first hospital in the country to integrate healthcare delivery and operations of two distinct healthcare organizations (the North Chicago VA Medical Center and the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes).
“It was an opportunity for a new challenge,” she says. Right away, Ida was encouraged to look into pursuing the MSN—something she’d been considering since that fortuitous day in 1987. She was awarded a scholarship from the VA to apply to the university of her choosing, and began her research. “Getting the MSN means a lot to me. I decided to get the MSN because of the dean who inspired me at Loyola and because of my commitment to lifelong learning.”
Discovering American Sentinel University
During Ida’s search for the right MSN program, she found American Sentinel University. “Immediately, I thought that it looked like the school for me,” she says, adding that the MSN, infection prevention and control specialization was exactly what she wanted in a graduate program. Ida enrolled in 2015—following on earning certification for infection control through Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. in 2013.
Hard work and sacrifice
Over the next few years, Ida worked hard in school and at her job. Over three years, she helped Lovell Federal Health Care Center’s community living center achieve 24 percent improvement in hand hygiene compliance through an innovative targeted solutions tool application, among other accomplishments. At American Sentinel, she gives 100% to the MSN program. “I credit American Sentinel all the time for engaging me, for stimulating my personal and professional growth,” she says. “I’m learning so much, and everything I learn, I’m able to apply at work to optimize patient outcomes.” Ida will graduate from American Sentinel in June 2016.
A promotion at work
In January 2016, Ida received a promotion at Lovell. The organization granted Ida an educational waiver before she officially earned her MSN, which was a requirement for promotion. “I’m really happy to be promoted, and was told that my writing skills were strong and that I articulated what I know very well,” she says. “I know that my writing skills have improved tremendously during my time at American Sentinel.”
The promotion means that Ida will become a go-to person at Lovell to lead projects that utilize implementation science to translate to the bedside in order to provide quality care and optimize patient outcomes. “Before the MSN, I would’ve been hesitant to take on projects,” she admits. “This has made me more confident in terms of what I can do at work, and more excited to try new things going forward. It’s a foundation I know will allow me to develop professionally going forward.”
Inspired by Ida’s story? An MSN program can be your 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. 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.