Psychiatric VA Nurse Earns MSN at American Sentinel to Strengthen her Patient Education Career

Psychiatric VA Nurse Earns MSN at American Sentinel to Strengthen her Patient Education Career

Experienced nurse Becky Shelley sought out American Sentinel University’s MSN, nursing education specialization online degree program so she could take her clinical knowledge into the classroom as a teacher.

With a background in mental health, Becky Shelley has always enjoyed taking a holistic view of a patient’s health.

MSN, nursing education specialization student Becky Shelley says American Sentinel University was her top choice for an RN to MSN bridge program.

After high school, Becky joined a community mental health agency in southern Illinois as a case manager. Eventually, she became coordinator of the organization’s teen parenting program. “I absolutely loved it there,” Becky says. Her passion showed, too. After several years, she was encouraged by her boss to pursue her Registered Nurse license and certification in psychiatric and mental health nursing. During Becky’s last decade at the agency, she was a psychiatric nurse coordinator, overseeing services for a three-county area.

A Journey to Further Education
A life change brought Becky to Florida in 2001. She continued her psychiatric nursing career at a community health organization and a local Veterans Administration, where she works today. When her supervisor approached her with the opportunity to work in the center’s brand new patient education program, Becky jumped at the opportunity.

“My boss wanted me to consider going back to school, and right away I was excited,” says Becky, whose background made her a great fit for the new role. “I’d been thinking about getting my degree for a long time, but I wasn’t previously familiar with the advantages of a bridge program, where I could gain an advanced degree as an RN. I have great leadership models at my work who turned me onto RN to MSN programs.”

Armed with a list of must-haves, she identified American Sentinel University as her top choice for an RN to MSN bridge program. Becky received the VA’s National Nursing Education Initiative Scholarship and started school in fall 2010, pursuing the MSN with a nursing education specialization.

Equipping Patients with the Tools to Lead Healthy Lives
Around the same time Becky began her course work at American Sentinel, she helped start the Daytona Beach VA Patient Education Program as well as the MOVE! national weight management program for veterans. Since then, the program has become a national model for other VA centers. “I have put so much of what I’m learning in my MSN program into my work,” Becky says. “The upfront modalities and assessments of learning objectives and patients’ needs have a lot to do with our program’s success. I consider that a kudos to American Sentinel’s program and what it taught me.”

Julie Alexander, Project Lead, Student Success Advisor

“Working with Becky is definitive of those relationships you can look back on and find inspiration from,” says Julie Alexander, project lead, student success advisor at American Sentinel University. “Becky took ownership of her education, in a passionate and genuine way, which is critical for a student learning online. She showed that persistence and a good attitude are keys to success. I was continually impressed with how eloquently Becky applied her academic experience to her professional life.”



An Educational Experience—and Staff—Worth Applause
Becky completed her MSN, nursing education specialization, in October 2013. Her journey was “top notch,” she says, giving her the background to be a better educator, nurse and person. “My experience at American Sentinel has been absolutely great,” she says. “My professors made learning enjoyable, Suzette Brown in admissions was accommodating and genuine, and my student success advisor, Julie Alexander, went way above and beyond the call of duty to make my experience as great as it could be. She has been instrumental in my success.”

Next Steps: More Teaching
Fueled by the success of her work building the Daytona Beach VA’s patient education programs, Becky says that one day she envisions herself teaching as an adjunct at her local community college. “I know my degree will bloom into more opportunity,” she says. “I recommend the MSN nursing education program to anyone who seeks to understand teaching from a learner standpoint. I know now how to design classes that are successful at getting students excited and engaged. As a teacher, I want be able to work with students and know that learning has transpired.”

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