Carolyn Leeder has been in nursing her entire career. Her interest in healthcare came from her grandparents—a grandfather who was a doctor and a grandmother who was a nurse. “Since I could walk, working with patients is something I wanted to do,” says Carolyn, who earned a license in vocational nursing from the City College of San Francisco in 1991 and ADN, RN and BSN from Dominican University in 1996. Over the next decade, she worked as an RN in acute care, home health and skilled nursing facilities—among other settings.
During her tenure as a director of nursing for a convalescent and rehabilitation hospital in Tiburon, California, Carolyn discovered case management. “The medical system can be confusing and difficult to navigate for families without someone to guide them through it,” she says. “On the patient side, I saw over and over the maze of legislation that patients deal with. It made me see how important case managers are in getting patients the care they need.”
A Conscious Career Change
A year later, Carolyn moved to Texas for a job as an RN case manager in a home health facility. She became an outpatient case manager for a medical group in 2006, earned the Certified Case Manager credential in 2008 and joined Kindred Healthcare in 2010 as the district case manager for the Northwest territory. Today, Carolyn is the Northwest district director of case management.
From her earliest days in case management, Carolyn thought about pursuing an MSN. Kindred was supportive of her decision, and she received, one of the company’s first West Region Case Management Scholarships for employees pursuing master’s degrees in case management. American Sentinel University is an educational partner of Kindred Healthcare, and Carolyn had heard positive things about the university from colleagues who were pursuing the MSN. Carolyn started her program in 2012.
Making Her Dreams Happen
With her job, Carolyn travels more than 70 percent of the time, visiting hospitals throughout her five-state region. An online program wasn’t just a desire; it was a must. “There is no way I could have achieved this goal in a traditional program,” she says. “I had great support at Kindred and at home, and was in a program that was set up for working professionals like me.”
Carolyn graduated from American Sentinel University in 2013 with the MSN, case management specialization. Her job is to train all physicians, coders and case managers in her district on case management procedures—and educate the C suite on the importance of case management company wide. “What benefitted me most were the interactions with peers in my field,” she says. “Along with the expertise of my professors and the ability to specialize in case management, I gained a lot from the program.”
A Well-Rounded Resume
With her MSN, case management specialization, Carolyn says she now has the credentials she needs to move up when the opportunity presents itself. “These days, in any type of senior level management, you need a master’s degree,” she says. “For me, this degree is much more than initials on a piece of paper. It’s something I worked hard for and has given me the ability to better mentor others in my job. I gained new skills and can do my job better.”
Inspired by Carolyn’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like case management, informatics, 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.
American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including an RN-to BSN program and advanced degree programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in case management, infection control, and executive leadership.