Gilda Sneed dreamed of going to nursing school as a young adult, but her life responsibilities and some health problems forced her to put it off for a while. “I started out as a licensed vocational nurse, and really developed a love of caring for people,” says Gilda, who grew up in Columbus, Georgia. Eventually, she moved to Richmond, Virginia, became a Registered Nurse, and got a foot in the door in at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health System—her employer still today.
A fulfilling 45-year career
Over her 45 years at VCU Health, Gilda has worked in various capacities and areas—from the coronary care unit to the cardiac transplant unit—and she made her way to the kidney/liver transplant center in 1990. She’s been there ever since. “I love my job as a transplant coordinator,” she says. “I have no plans to retire, and I just enjoy my patients so much.”
When the hospital announced the organization’s intent to pursue Magnet status, Gilda and other RNs were required to return to school for a BSN—something Gilda had wanted to do for many years anyway. “It was a good push,” she says. Several colleagues who had pursued the BSN and MSN recommended American Sentinel, and after doing her own research, Gilda followed in their footsteps, enrolling in 2014. “I was raised to believe you can do anything you put your mind to if you put one foot in front of the other. I was a little afraid of the computer part of college, but I knew I could do it if I kept going.”
Newfound skills – and renewed excitement
Once Gilda started the BSN, there was nothing stopping her—even at the age of 66. And thanks to her nearby son, who offered technology help every weekend, and her seven grandchildren, who rooted her on, her enthusiasm grew by the week. “I just kept saying, ‘I can do this,’ and I kept on working,” Gilda says, adding that her supervisors at VCU Health were also supportive. “The program invigorated me. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of a workplace, but there’s always something to learn. Being back in school reminds you of that.”
In June 2016, Gilda graduated with the BSN. “One thing that made this such a wonderful experience was that I learned what new nurses are being taught today, which means I am much better able to help them,” she says. “I also feel so much more knowledgeable about evidence-based practice. I feel more comfortable researching and applying that research when I’m working with patients and other nurses.”
Proud and motivated
Gilda never pictured herself going back to college at her age, but she’s happy that she did. “Age is just a number, and while my employer pushed me to earn the BSN, it is something I’m so proud to have achieved,” she says. American Sentinel, she adds, was the perfect learning environment for her. “American Sentinel really does support the students, which is what I’d heard from others when I was doing my research. To anyone considering it, the BSN is a challenging program, and you’re going to work hard, but you will have support. I appreciated that every step of the way.”
Inspired by Gilda’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.