Operating Room Nurse Leverages MSN, Informatics to Power Her Career

Operating Room Nurse Leverages MSN, Informatics to Power Her Career

When Summer Dykhouse graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science in 2000, she planned to find a job in the industry—but found her life taking a few unexpected turns.

“September 11th happened and the landscape in forensic science changed, and it was just difficult to find a job in forensic science,” says Summer, a native of northern Michigan. She started working at the local hospital, Mercy Hospital of Cadillac, in various positions, and wound up in surgery scheduling. “The nurses kept encouraging me to consider nursing. I figured I’d follow life where it was taking me!

Into nursing school

Summer enrolled at Baker College of Cadillac’s ADN program and graduated in 2009. “I found that I absolutely loved nursing,” she says. The surgery department where she’d worked for many years welcomed her as a circulating nurse in the operating room, and she stayed for four years. In 2011, Summer sought the CNOR certification, the gold standard for perioperative Registered Nurses, and it left her wanting more.

A fellow OR nurse was pursuing an MSN at American Sentinel University, and Summer was intrigued. “Even though I had a bachelor’s degree, I knew that having the BSN would be a good thing,” she says. She did her own research and decided to give American Sentinel a try, enrolling in 2012. “The advisors were excellent, and I really enjoyed getting perspectives from nurses all around the world. The BSN strengthened me in many ways, like learning how to research and becoming a well-rounded nurse overall.”

From BSN to MSN

Summer’s American Sentinel experience was so positive, in fact, that after she graduated in 2013, she decided to continue on for her MSN, driven in part by the numerous changes in healthcare. “The way healthcare is changing, I know that a BSN is just an entry point at many hospitals,” says Summer. “I feel like this is the time in my life to focus on my career. I didn’t want to lose momentum, so I went for it.”

During her educational pursuits, Summer also changed jobs, becoming a travel nurse with Aureus Medical. For two and a half years, she worked in Alaska, New Mexico, Washington and finally Oregon. During a six-month stint at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon, Summer was offered a permanent job—in the perioperative department as an informaticist. “My time as a travel nurse exposed me to several new hospitals that were implementing computerized systems,” she says. “I became a representative of the OR nursing staff when administrators would ask me, ‘Is this the best way to do this?’ It got me interested, and made me choose the nursing informatics specialization for my MSN.”

A newfound passion in informatics

Summer started full time with Kaiser Permanente Northwest in summer 2015. She hopes to graduate from American Sentinel in 2016. Her new job takes her away from the bedside, but she loves that she is able to still making a difference. “Helping the nurse does help the patient,” she says. “It’s extremely rewarding to talk with people and find out where they are coming from and help make their jobs easier. I’ve been in their position before.”

Turning the page to a new chapter

Her MSN, informatics specialization, is making things much easier. “My course work has helped me a lot, and I am building upon what I learned in the BSN program,” she says. Summer says having the MSN underway also proved that she was serious about her new job. “I believe it showed Kaiser that I’m motivated to make informatics my career. I’m definitely excited about this new chapter in my life.”


Inspired by Summer’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, 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.