For as long as she can remember, Star Bixby has taken care of those around her. As a young girl, Star’s mother was chronically ill, and her frequent exposure to the hospital while visiting her influenced the path that Star would later take. After high school, she earned the ADN from a nursing school near her hometown of the Finger Lakes region in New York. She became a critical care nurse for Schuyler Hospital, a critical access hospital with a skilled nursing facility and started to volunteer as an Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate with the local Volunteer Ambulance Association. She also obtained the Pre-Hospital Registered Nurse certification. “I have always loved the challenge of working in trauma,” Star says.
Discovering flight nursing
Later in her career, Star moved to Pennsylvania and joined the trauma intensive care unit and surgical intensive care unit of Robert Packer Hospital. It was then that she became interested in flight nursing. “I really liked the idea of getting to use skills that I don’t use in the hospital,” Star says. “In flight nursing, you perform advanced critical care tasks while transporting critically ill or injured patients—things that regular nurses don’t do. Whether it’s intraosseous line insertions or endotracheal intubations, our job is to address critical needs.”
Star left the bedside in 2000 to become a full-time flight nurse, first with Guthrie One Helicopter and then STAT MedEvac. In 2006, Star joined Geisinger Life Flight and also became a clinical instructor for the Pennsylvania College of Technology, teaching paramedic students in the emergency department.
A life change
Star met her husband, a critical care flight paramedic, while the couple was doing what they love: saving lives. They married in 2006 and had a daughter in 2008. They share a passion for their work, but as their lives changed, both knew they needed to make career changes.
“Our daughter has grown up around the helicopter pad, sleeping on the couch at our work until one of us gets off work late at night,” Star says. She and her husband decided to give up their full-time flight jobs to pursue other positions. First, however, Star needed to take the steps to get there.
Finding American Sentinel University
Star decided that a bachelor’s degree was her next step. “With the changes in healthcare, I knew that I couldn’t get the type of advanced position I wanted without a BSN,” Star says. Her employer, Geisinger, is very supportive of education and encouraged her to explore some of its educational partners. “American Sentinel came highly recommended by several friends at work, and I liked everything I saw when I did my own research.” In 2012, Star enrolled in the BSN program.
Making it happen
No stranger to hard work, Star continued her job with Geisinger Life, doing homework anytime she wasn’t at work. “My manager supported me 110% and my husband was right there by my side, proofing my papers, helping me in every way he could,” she says. Two years later in September 2014, Star graduated with the BSN—summa cum laude. And as luck would have it, a job at Geisinger Medical Center opened up just a few months later. “I applied last spring and got the job,” says Star, who is now the adult trauma program coordinator. Star oversees a staff of trauma case managers, registrars and data integration specialists. The challenge of learning her new role is both fun and rewarding. “These jobs don’t stay open for long. I got very lucky, and although I have great experience, I know that I wouldn’t have gotten the job without the BSN.” Star continues to fly with Life Flight as a critical care nurse in a flex role, about once every six weeks.
Education is truly a family affair
Now that Star has the BSN under her belt, it is her husband’s turn to go to school. “He’s getting his bachelor’s in healthcare management,” Star says. “It isn’t easy to go back to school as an adult, but we both feel it’s important. If you want to make a change, education is the way to do it. And with where healthcare is going, advanced degrees are important.”
Inspired by Star’s story? A BSN is ideal for nurses who want to expand their knowledge base, become more marketable and enjoy greater career stability and mobility. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of nursing and when you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.