Kris Faulkner chose a career in nursing for practical reasons, but quickly discovered the multitude of possibilities in the profession. “I always tell others how fortunate I feel that I chose this career, because it has so many options,” says Kris, who earned the BSN in 1985 from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she grew up. “Nursing offers variety and opportunity. You can move anywhere in the world and be able to get a job in your specialty.”
And that’s just what Kris did. The adventure started after she met her husband, a member of the U.S. Navy, whom she married while working as a staff nurse at University of Minnesota Health in urology and neurosurgery, and later, in the surgical intensive care unit. The couple moved to Florida, Maine, Japan and Hawaii over the next eight years, with Kris working in critical care everywhere they went. When her husband left the military in 1996, they decided it was time to choose a forever home where they could raise their two sons.
Mayo Clinic Health System
Both Kris and her husband are Midwestern natives and decided to focus on areas closer to family. As Kris looked for a job, she discovered the Mayo Foundation-affiliated Luther Midelfort Medical Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which happened to have an open position in the critical care unit. In 1996, she joined the hospital as a staff RN and worked her way up to hospital house supervisor. When the hospital decided to start a nursing support services department in 2007, they needed a director. Kris got the job.
Growth and change
There were just ten people in Kris’s area when she took over—and she now has almost 80. “This department has grown a lot in nine years,” she says. “We’re continually adding roles to meet the needs of the organization and the community. In 2011, Luther Midelfort became Mayo Clinic Health System, a move that involved more than just a name change. “Around 2013, we were told that nursing administrators at the organization would need to hold an MSN. As a director, the rule didn’t apply to her, but she didn’t want to limit her future options. “My boss enrolled at American Sentinel University, and she said, ‘If I can do it, so can you.’” Kris started the MSN, nursing leadership and organizational management specialization, in late 2013.
A great experience
Kris’s expectations were high enrolling at American Sentinel, where her boss and another Mayo administrator were also students. “It was a great experience,” she says. “I liked the pace of the eight-week classes, the guidance from advisors and professors, and the online learning format.”
She received great support at home as well—and her youngest son was attending college at the same time. “The last time I was in college, I typed papers on a typewriter and used the library card catalog. He helped me so much.” Mother and son both graduated in June 2016. “That was really special. I feel like I had the best support system ever.”
A valuable experience
Kris says that earning the MSN has helped her tremendously as a leader—and opened her eyes to the possibilities for the future. “The next step in my career would be nurse administrator, and now I feel that opportunity would be available to me,” Kris says, adding that going back to school taught her things about changes in the healthcare landscape and current practices. “I truly wish I had done this ten years ago.”
In fact, Kris has enjoyed the experience so much she has encouraged several employees to return for further education. “When nurses who work for me talk about school, I tell them to look up American Sentinel tomorrow and to go for it! For me, it has been so valuable, and I have no doubt it would help them reach their goals also.”
Inspired by Kris’ story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing management and organizational leadership, nursing education, informatics, 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.