When Susan Booksha graduated high school, she followed her heart into healthcare—something she’d dreamed of doing since she was a little girl. “There was never another career I wanted to do more than nursing,” says Susan, a New Jersey native. She became a Licensed Practical Nurse in 1980 and worked in the hospital, nursing home and a physical therapy settings. Years later, after raising children and enjoying her LPN career, a friend—a Registered Nurse—suggested that she apply for an open position at her employer, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. Susan was hired in 2002 and earned an Associate Degree of Nursing in 2004, a contingency of her getting the job.
Following her passion
At AtlantiCare, Susan started out in the medical/surgical area working with acute care patients but got into hospice care in 2006. “I have a heart for end-of-life care,” she says. “I spent eight years in that role and loved it.” She applauds AtlantiCare for its support of nurses, which led her to pursue the BSN in 2013. “This is an education-oriented place that promotes from within. They’ve always encouraged my efforts to better myself.”
Time for the MSN
In 2014, Susan’s boss—who started out as a unit secretary at AtlantiCare and worked her way up to management—proposed a deal. “She said she would get her doctorate if I got my master’s,” recalls Susan. “The MSN was on my mind because of the career advancement opportunities it would give me. People take you seriously when they see those three letters behind your name.”
Around the same, AtlantiCare announced that it would merge with Geisinger Health System, an organization known for leading the transformation of healthcare. The company is an educational partner of American Sentinel University, so when Susan started her research on MSN programs, the university quickly made her short list. “The MSN curriculum looked really good to me,” she says. “I’d talked with others who had enjoyed the program and it all fell into place.” She started the MSN, nursing education specialization, setting a long-term goal to teach.
A new adventure, a new job
When a position in palliative care at AtlantiCare opened up in 2015, Susan applied, eager to broaden her experience. “After years in hospice, I’m excited to help people in the beginning of their journeys with diseases like cancer,” she says. With her depth of experience and the MSN, nursing education specialization underway, Susan was a solid candidate and got the job. “The MSN program is proving really applicable to what I do every day. In palliative care, there is a lot of one-to-one teaching, and it’s important that I meet the needs of different students. I’ve also learned about designing curriculum.”
Plans to teach
One year into her new job, Susan says she’s very happy where she is, but is keeping her options open. “I would love to teach as an adjunct at one of our local community colleges,” she says, adding that she’s considering pursuing the Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership. For now, Susan hopes to get involved at AtlantiCare as initiatives arise to improve patient and nurse education.
The worthwhile journey
In November 2016, Susan graduated from American Sentinel with the MSN. While the time and effort required were challenging, she was dealing with much more. Susan is a breast cancer survivor but had a second mastectomy in 2015 when a genetic test revealed a high chance of cancer returning. Still, she managed to keep up with work and school. “The professors were very supportive and understanding,” says Susan, who is the co-captain of the AtlantiCare cycling team that raises money for the American Cancer Society.
Today, a fresh graduate, Susan is proud of her efforts—as are her cheerleaders, her husband, three adult children and best friend. “I had a lot of support,” she says. “I learned so much and met so many people from all over the country through American Sentinel. It was definitely worthwhile, so much so that I’m looking forward to taking a breather and then diving into the DNP.”
Inspired by Susan’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, 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.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.