After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Christine Lewandowski’s career took an unexpected turn. Outside of her regular job, the longtime, New Jersey-based emergency department nurse manager had been volunteering for the Federal Air Marshals program. “Immediately after 9/11, the government expanded the Air Marshals program significantly, and many emergency nurses who had been volunteering were now being hired,” says Christine, who started her nursing career in critical care in 1979 but began working in emergency medicine in 1982.
Within a month of 9/11, Christine started a company, Freedom Nurses, that provides staffing to federal sectors. She also completed training on the medical management of weapons of mass destruction and accepted a position as a supervisory occupational health nurse at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Air Marshal Service.
Finding the right time for the BSN
For the decade that followed, Christine focused on her job managing the occupational medical office for TSA—and on putting two of her three children through college. “It had always been a personal and professional goal of mine to go back for the BSN, but I just wasn’t able to make it work while working full time and paying tuition at two schools,” she says.
But when New Jersey made history and became one of the first states to take the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that all nurses become BSN prepared by 2020 a step further—by introducing the “BSN in 10” legislation in 2012—Christine got more serious. “American Sentinel came recommended by someone I knew, and I did my own program and cost comparison to other RN to BSN programs, and felt it was the right place for me,” she says.
Christine started the BSN in 2012, along with three of her TSA coworkers. “We were in it together, which was so important from a moral support perspective,” she says. “It was daunting to go back to school at my age, but it was a market reality…I needed to. So when I made it through, I was proud. American Sentinel benefitted me as a manager.” In 2013, Christine graduated with the BSN.
A recommended program
Having been at her workplace since 2002, Christine and her coworkers are a tight-knit group. Through the years, she has encouraged her employees and even a niece to check out American Sentinel. Three of her staff members have graduated from the BSN program and two continued on for MSN degrees. They will graduate in August 2016.
Building her future
A year after completing her BSN, Christine decided that she wasn’t quite finished with her educational journey. She enrolled in a Master of Arts in wellness and lifestyle management at Rowan University. During her master’s program, she developed a 400-hour health promotion and wellness internship at her workplace for Rowan undergraduates. Upon graduating in May 2016, she was offered an adjunct teaching position.
One day, Christine hopes to apply her nursing background and her graduate education to a new career. “I’d love to get more involved in public health or consult for companies, schools or communities on how to prevent health problems,” she says. “Preventative medicine is the future of healthcare.”
Where it all began
Christine says she never could have imagined that her career would have so many interesting twists—but she knows one thing for certain. “American Sentinel set me up for success in the second part of my career,” she says. “The university holds students to a high standard and prepared me to do well in my master’s program. The education was rigorous and absolutely great. I’ve never raved about anything like I rave about American Sentinel!”
Inspired by Christine’s story? A BSN is ideal for nurses who want to expand their knowledge base, become more marketable and enjoy greater career stability and mobility. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of nursing and 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.