Carmen Gant started her college education at George Mason University intending to become a forensic pathologist, but when her grandfather passed away unexpectedly, she decided to make a change. She transferred to Northern Virginia Community College and graduated as a Registered Nurse in 2007, then began her career at Kaiser Permanente in pediatrics, primary care.
Strengthening her skills
After several years, Carmen wanted to gain some hospital experience—but with only an associate degree, she couldn’t get a foot in the door anywhere. When Kaiser opened up a 24-hour Clinical Decision Unit, which evaluates and cares for patients whose ailments range from chest pain to asthma to abdominal pain, Carmen was eager to jump on board. “I got some excellent experience there, but I was still just working as a staff nurse,” says Carmen. She applied to and was accepted for a job at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
At Walter Reed, Carmen had the opportunity to establish the Newborn Clinic in Primary Pediatrics, which serves new parents. She wrote a book for the center, “The Newborn Clinic: How to Care for your Newborn,” which educated new mothers on everything from nursing to vaccinations during their newborns’ first two months of life.
Next goal: a management position
However, the pull to bigger and better was strong. “I’ve wanted to get into management for a long time, and I knew that to get there, especially at a Magnet hospital, I would need a bachelor’s degree,” Carmen says. “I found American Sentinel University online and the affordability was the biggest attraction. I also could tell right away that this is a school where you receive a lot of personal attention.”
Adjusting her schedule to make it happen
In June 2015, Carmen took a clinical supervisor position with Maxim Healthcare Services, a home health and wellness services, to gain a bit more normalcy in her work schedule—and gain managerial experience. She also started working in the Emergency Department at Reston Hospital Center on Saturdays to build her hospital resume and to keep her nursing skills current.
On top of it all, Carmen has been working toward her BSN from American Sentinel since 2013. As a mom of two school-age boys and a full-time nurse, it hasn’t been easy—but she has had great support and influences. “I watched my mother earn two master’s degrees and an honorary doctorate degree while I was growing up, so I’m a believer in education,” she says, adding that her husband has supported her every step of her own journey. “American Sentinel is a great school for those who have many responsibilities. The advisors and professors understand that you have a busy life, yet the program is quality. You’ll learn about delivering the best quality of patient care in today’s healthcare environment.”
Struggle is a stepping stone
In March 2016, Carmen will graduate with her BSN. It’s been a long road with a few unexpected challenges—a house fire and subsequent hospitalization and the loss of two close family members—but Carmen has “just kept on.” She hopes to one day work at Inova Health System, a leading Virginia not-for-profit healthcare system that serves more than two million people per year.
“What I tell other students is that going back to school as an adult is difficult and tiring, but one day, you’ll realize that you’ve finished one class, and then one more, and suddenly you’re at the finish line,” Carmen says. “And if you fall down or struggle along the way, that’s okay. That just means you can pick yourself up and try again.”