“If I can do it, so can others,” says Deborah Lewis, 2014 BSN graduate from American Sentinel University. Born and raised in Tennessee, Deborah did one year of college before stopping to get married and start her family. She decided to go back and pursued nursing alongside her mother. “At the age of 32, my youngest was in kindergarten, and I went to Jackson State Community College’s associate of nursing program to become a Registered Nurse,” she recalls. After graduating, she started her career in the critical care unit (CCU) at Jackson-Madison Co. General Hospital, West Tennessee Healthcare. She’s been with the organization ever since.
A range of experience
At Jackson-Madison, Deborah has gained breadth and depth of experience. She spent nine years in the CCU before working in one of the area nursing homes as its assistant director. She served as Jackson-Madison’s clinical nurse educator for four years before she was recruited to take over as director of the cardiac progressive care unit, a role in which she now manages nearly 100 employees caring for 42 patients. “I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done here and I’ve had many great opportunities,” she says. “I stay close to the bedside even today, which is where my heart is.”
Convinced to pursue the BSN
With her career progressing along, Deborah admits that returning to school for a bachelor’s degree was never on her radar. However, a lunch with a few coworkers in 2012 changed everything. “A friend from work told me she was going back to school and I was thinking to myself how hard that would be to do at my age and stage in life,” she says. In an afternoon meeting with her chief nursing officer that same day, the topic of the importance of management members furthering their education—starting with obtaining a BSN—came up. Then and there, Deborah realized she would need to follow in her colleague’s footsteps.
After some research with the help of her coworkers, the hospital librarian and her human resources department, Deborah discovered American Sentinel University and liked what she found. She started the BSN in 2012. “I was scared, I’ll admit, but as I got into the program, I realized that I wasn’t alone,” she says. “Everyone I was in class with was in the same boat as me: working full time and living a busy life.” The support she received also exceeded her hopes. “Professors were quick to respond to my questions and advisors were encouraging and helpful.”
Many assets gained
Deborah learned a lot from her program and benefitted in ways she didn’t anticipate. “I learned so much from other students, and now I’m finding ways to share what I learned with the people I work with,” she says. “The BSN opened up the book of knowledge for me. I started the program thinking I didn’t need it, but discovered that the pursuit of the degree opened doors I didn’t even know were available to me.” Today, Deborah is contemplating pursuing the Critical Care Nursing certification. In her hospital, she is working hard to identify areas for improvement and make changes that keep both the big picture and the patient in mind.
Paying forward the encouragement
In 2014, Deborah graduated with honors from American Sentinel, impressing her four children and five grandchildren with her hard work and fortitude. Though at times she found it difficult to stay on top of her work responsibilities, school work and life, she is steadfast in her stance that it can be done.
“I often talk with others who think about going back to school and I think they all have the same fears that I had,” Deborah says. “What I tell people is that anybody can succeed by managing their time well, especially when they have the support of professors and students like you do at American Sentinel. I returned to school as a grandmother with very little experience with computers or writing American Psychological Association papers. It can be done. Never in my life would I imagine I’d graduate with honors with my BSN, but with hard work, anything is possible.”
Inspired by Deborah’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.