When American Sentinel University BSN graduate Debi Rafferty graduated from high school, she knew exactly what she wanted to be: a nurse. Initially, however, she had difficulty getting into nursing school, so she decided to become a paralegal instead. It took her just three years to realize she was meant for another career.
“My mom is a nurse and knew that was what I wanted,” Debi recalls. “She bought me a desk a year into my paralegal career and said, ‘You need to go back to school.’”
So, Debi returned to Hahnemann University and earned her associate degree in nursing. Eventually, she found her way to the maternity unit in 1992—and she’s been there ever since. “I love my job,” Debi admits. “I love being a labor and delivery nurse. I honestly can’t imagine being in any other area of the hospital.”
She spent 17 years at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital in southeastern Pennsylvania, and has been at Delaware County Memorial Hospital since 2003. She also works part time in a chiropractor’s office.
Driven toward more education
Five years ago Harcum College, a nearby junior college, was looking for a clinical labor room instructor. Debi jumped at the opportunity and discovered a love for the classroom. However, she was encouraged to earn a bachelor’s degree in order to continue teaching. A busy mother of four children, it wasn’t easy for Debi to go back to school, but as she puts it, “I thought I should finish my bachelor’s degree before my kids did.”
The idea of an online university appealed greatly to Debi. “When I found American Sentinel, I talked to Tobie Leigh Gallegos, who helped me the very most,” Debi says. “The whole team answered my questions, especially my advisor, Devon Putnam. I liked the flexibility and the online structure. And I liked that it was affordable.” Her professors also provided unwavering support. “I would never have finished without the support of my instructors. I never felt that I was there by myself.”
Next stop: MSN
After much perseverance, Debi completed her BSN degree online in October 2012, and says she learned more than she ever anticipated. “School made me more aware of everything, from how the hospital system runs to how to achieve the goal of providing high-quality patient care,” she says. She enjoye d the experience so much that she has recently decided to continue on for an MSN—and she has her eye on American Sentinel’s program (and plans to pursue two specializations, nursing informatics and nursing education).
Her big goal: to continue working in her position at Delaware County Memorial and bring her knowledge of technology to the hospital. “I would love to help the organization become computerized,” she says. Debi also plans to continue teaching at Harcum College—and hopefully in other nursing programs in the future. She also plans to get certification in her specialty, bereavement.
Nothing stopping her now
As a single mother, Debi was able to run her household, continue working and succeed in school after 20 years away from college. One of her daughter’s is following in her footsteps and is currently in nursing school. “Nursing is definitely in the genes,” says Debi.
Debi says that achieving her educational goals has given her great confidence in herself and her abilities. “I’m very proud,” she says. “My kids are proud, my mother is extremely proud and I now feel I am capable of doing this. American Sentinel goes above and beyond to help students like me succeed.”