Overseas Nurse Draws Upon Coursework to Benefit Community

A dedicated nurse finds her courses have helped her to think critically about current issues in health care and work toward solutions– and she creates a program that targets preschoolers’ health

Mary Drobnak

Mary Drobnak is no stranger to fresh starts. Due to the itinerant nature of her husband’s career, she has settled into new home after new home, working as a registered nurse in countries such as India and China. But there was one area where she’d never ventured: although she had long held an associate’s degree, she dreamed of going one step farther with an RN to BSN program


“As time went on, I started to realize I either wanted to be an educator or a nurse practitioner, and that meant not only my BSN [Bachelor of Science in Nursing], it meant getting a Master’s degree and beyond,” Mary said. With its flexible learning options, American Sentinel University proved the optimal choice.

Now, not only does Mary have the BSN under her belt, she’s moved on to her MSN, which she hopes to complete by December, 2011. She credits her American Sentinel education with helping her to make strides in health care in her Shanghai, China, community.

Turning Education into Outreach

“Every day I can see areas of my life where I have grown because I am in school,” Mary said.

Already, she’s jumped on the chance to apply her coursework to her professional life: A project from her Community Nursing course inspired her to create a preschool health program in Shanghai, which quickly gained local support.

“It was very empowering to find out I could do something like this outside my home country and be so well received in my host country,” she said.

In addition to giving her a leg up in today’s ever-changing health care climate, Mary’s courses have helped expand her frame of reference for both local and global health matters. “I have learned about current affairs in health that I was unaware of,” Mary said. “As a nurse, I am in the position to do something about many of these current situations.”

Surmounting the Obstacles

Although Mary was determined to pursue her dream of furthering her education, a few concerns stood in her way. How would she afford it? Could she juggle course requirements with a busy career? Would she sacrifice too much time with family and friends?

American Sentinel’s flexibility, resources, and accommodating personnel all helped to ease Mary’s misgivings. She credits the university’s online study tips with helping her maximize her time and praises her instructors’ willingness to help her overcome any logistical snags posed by the distance from her home in Shanghai, such as textbook delivery. And she quickly became adept at balancing her coursework with her personal and professional life.

“You have to work it in whenever and wherever you can,” Mary said. “You have to say no to activities and people you used to say yes to. You have to push yourself when you feel like you cannot go anymore.”

Mary also is gratified by the extent to which her American Sentinel experience has influenced her personally.

“My American Sentinel education in nursing thus far has made me realize who I am again and how far I have come since I received my RN 16-plus years ago,” she says. “This realization in many ways has already made me more successful in my daily life.”

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