Resilient is the perfect word to describe Kelli Martin, RN to BSN student at American Sentinel University.
With just a few credits to go until she completes her program, Kelli admits that her journey to the BSN hasn’t been an easy one, but she’s grown a lot along the way. In 1989, she became the 91st Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in the state of Wyoming—there are more than 30,000 today—at West Park Hospital (WPH), a critical access facility in Cody, Wyoming. She’s spent the last 28 years there—a place she says is “supportive financially and otherwise of nurses returning to school”—honing her skills, love and knowledge for the elderly. In 1996, she earned certification in gerontology through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. “There’s almost no position in this facility that I haven’t held!” says Kelli. “I’ve been a restorative aide, a bath aide, a charge nurse, an acute care nurse, and even the long-term care (LTC) interim director of nursing a few times.”
Today, Kelli is the West Park LTC staff development coordinator, a role she has held for many years. She’s a member of several intradisciplinary review teams and is responsible for department-specific training of all staff. Kelli also runs an approved national nurse aide training program, and has since 1996. She has also evaluated nurse aide candidates for Wyoming longer than any other nurse evaluator.
A program to meet her needs
After earning her Associate of Science in Nursing in 1994, Kelli wanted to earn her BSN. But the sudden death of her brother in 1996, her mother’s mental illness, a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease (with two major surgeries to follow), and other tragedies partially derailed those plans. However, she did take BSN course work at the University of Wyoming from 2005 to 2009.
Not long after the sudden death of her mother in 2010, Kelli noticed an American Sentinel table set up in the West Park lobby. She inquired—for herself and her staff—and liked what she heard. “I couldn’t believe the flexibility in how the courses were offered,” Kelli says. “The structure within each one is highly conducive to living a normal life.”
One step at a time
Today, Kelli is nearing the finish line for the program she started in 2013. “I’ve loved my entire curriculum,” she says. Though she had to overcome tremendous challenges, she says, “I always fought back. I never gave up, even when I wanted to.” Now just three classes shy of earning the BSN, Kelli is proud and excited. “My grown children and my husband know what this means to me. It has been on my life bucket list forever.” This month, Kelli celebrates 32 years of marriage. Also, over the last several years, her children have married and given her three beautiful grandchildren.
Fulfilling her goal
For Kelli, earning the BSN is a matter of pride and self-fulfillment—and she has had good support along the way. “American Sentinel has one of the most professional individuals I’ve come across during my entire time in education, and that’s Carolyn Rupp, my student success advisor,” she says. “Students are nurses with real lives and busy jobs. American Sentinel knows this and tailors its curricula to us. Though the road to my BSN hasn’t always been smooth, it’s been worth it. When I graduate, I’ll walk away feeling that I’ve challenged myself and gained a base of knowledge that will definitely help me in my job and career.”
Inspired by Kelli’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.