When Karen Coleman started her career at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania after nursing school, the educational expectations of nurses were different than they are now. “At the time, the BSN was less hands-on than the nursing diploma, which allowed you to get a lot of clinical experience,” says Karen, a native of Danville, Pennsylvania. Eager to start her career, Karen hit the ground running as soon as she became a Registered Nurse in 1989.
A heart for the heart
For ten years, Karen was a cardiac staff nurse for Geisinger. She then stepped away from the workforce to focus on raising her son, and returned to Geisinger in 2007 as an interventional radiology nurse, working flex per diem at first. The landscape in nursing, Karen found, had changed dramatically. “I realized that a BSN was quickly becoming the minimum expectation for nurses,” she says. At the same time, Geisinger had established a policy that all bedside nurses must hold the BSN, or obtain it within five years of joining the organization. So, Karen soon looked into online BSN programs.
A recommended program
As an educational partner of American Sentinel, Geisinger referred Karen to the university, and she liked what she heard. “I was most excited about the curriculum and the nursing courses, but there were some other great benefits like the affordable cost per credit hour,” Karen says.
Karen was also happy to be able to continue working full time. “My work and my patients are important to me, so I knew that online education was the best setup for me,” she says. Karen started her BSN program in the fall of 2012. “American Sentinel is an incredible university. They make it easy to navigate college.”
Hands-on learning she could apply immediately
Throughout her program, Karen says she learned more than she ever expected. “Nurses who think they know everything are dangerous, and I knew from the start that there was plenty I could learn,” she says. “I went into this to achieve a goal, to stay competitive, but I also learned a ton, and I appreciated that the professors made it challenging. Today, I’m a better nurse because of it.” While she was in the education mode, Karen also earned her certification in Heart Failure Nursing in June 2014.
Karen says that getting to the finish line wasn’t easy. The classes were challenging and an unexpected family tragedy took her away from college for nine months. But she was able to finish her last course in February 2015. She says she is “eternally grateful” for the support of her husband, son—who attended Pennsylvania State while Karen was at American Sentinel—and student success advisor, Julie Alexander. “I wouldn’t have gotten my degree without Julie,” she says. “This is as much her success as it is mine.”
A new job, a new chapter
When Karen finished her final class at American Sentinel, she and her husband took a celebratory trip to Turks and Caicos. The trip sparked a major life change. “When we returned, we started looking at jobs in warmer climates, and amazingly, I got two interviews in Florida,” Karen says. Within a month, Karen had two job offers—and she accepted a position as the cardiovascular coordinator at Delray Medical Center. She started May 1 and is helping the center open a new heart failure clinic.
The move is bittersweet, but an opportunity Karen simply could not pass up. “I’ve spent my entire career with Geisinger, so it was sad to leave, but they are happy for me and beyond supportive,” Karen says. As she begins the next chapter in her life and career, Karen is grateful that she pursued her education. “I couldn’t have gotten this position without my BSN. It’s been an exciting turn of events, and I know that if American Sentinel hadn’t been in the picture, this would never have happened.”
Inspired by Karen’s story? 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.