At the age of 35, San Francisco native Randy Lopez had worked in retail management for his entire career. A desire to give back led him to explore opportunities to volunteer at a youth substance abuse treatment center, but he was advised that he would need a Psychiatric Technician license to do so.
Thus began a career change for Randy, who became a Psychiatric Technician in 1987, and joined Agnews State Hospital thereafter. “Everyone has their niche and I definitely found mine,” he says. “I do think I have the mindset and the heart for this field.”
Through the years, Randy worked for several hospitals, including Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford and Santa Clara County’s Emergency Psychiatric Services, always focusing on acute psychiatric care. In 2003, he suffered a massive stroke that caused him to lose most of his mobility and speech. “I decided that if I ever came out of that in one piece, I would become a Registered Nurse,” says Randy, who had taken a few nursing school prerequisites through the years. In 2011, he became an RN.
Dedicated to the mental health population
Randy started his post-nursing school career at North Valley Solano Psychiatric Health Facility in 2011, but when it closed just a year later, he joined Adventist Health as a nurse manager of the acute psychiatric unit. The next year, Randy was recruited by North Valley Psychiatric Health Facility and then Willow Glen Care Center, a nonprofit organization with residential care facilities for adults with severe mental health conditions. The organization charged him with opening a mental health rehabilitation center on the Willow Glen campus. “It was their first sub-acute, locked psychiatric facility, so I had no model or blueprint,” Randy says.
Time for the BSN
Immediately upon starting at Willow Glen, Randy decided the time was right for further education. “I had considered pursuing a BSN numerous times previously,” he says. A former colleague was a BSN student at American Sentinel University, and encouraged Randy to check out the program for himself. While working to open Sequoia Psychiatric Treatment Center, a 16-bed facility, Randy also enrolled in American Sentinel’s BSN.
After a great deal of hard work and commitment—and periodic breaks when opening Sequoia and while his girlfriend of 14 years battled and passed away from cancer—Randy completed his final course for the BSN in March 2016. His advice to any student: never give up. “Life throws curve balls at you that you don’t see coming,” he says. “Absorb the hits and keep working hard.”
Plans for the future
Since opening in 2013, Sequoia Psychiatric Treatment Center has achieved remarkable success with patients and has become a statewide model for offering the chronically mentally ill patient population a continuum of transitional to residential care. While in the BSN, Randy realized that an MBA would enhance his skills even more as the director of nursing and person responsible for overseeing the facility. He intends to pursue the MBA Healthcare at American Sentinel after he graduates with the BSN in May 2016. A self-directed, project-based MBA program in which students complete four projects instead of traditional classes, Randy says that the MBA Healthcare will allow him to apply what he learns.
“I can base the entire program on knowledge I have gained through opening and running this facility,” he says. “There’s no doubt that my employer sees the benefits of me getting the BSN, and I know that the MBA Healthcare will benefit me even more.”
Inspired by Randy’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.