When Colleen Drolett started her nursing career in 1986, one of her first patients was someone who would change her life forever: her future husband, Tom. After a diving accident left him a quadriplegic, he happened to be a patient in the hospital bed next to Colleen’s patient. “We became friends first, and many years later I ended up marrying him,” says Colleen. “Tom is the person I think of when I treat patients and the biggest reason I am the nurse I am. He taught me a lot about the patients I serve—things that will carry me through my whole career.”
A fulfilling career
Colleen has spent her entire career with McLaren Greater Lansing, a fully integrated health network based in Flint, Michigan. She started out in medical-surgical and moved into open heart surgery for almost 19 years. To ensure she could focus on caring for her husband when health issues arose, Colleen often worked per diem and took on roles that offered more flexibility, such as case management and data management for the stroke program.
As a diploma nurse, Colleen was concerned about getting overlooked for opportunities, but several leaders believed in her capabilities. “I got pulled into many great things like building our stroke program in 2010 and serving as our EMS coordinator,” she says. In the back of her mind, however, was a lifelong goal to earn the BSN, but the timing was never quite right. “I tried to start the BSN three different times, and each time, Tom’s health would become an issue. The last time he became very sick I felt it was a sign to wait.”
A promise to herself and her husband
In 2011, Colleen’s husband took a turn for the worse. Before he passed away, he made Colleen assure him of one thing. “He wanted me to get my BSN,” she says. “It was my commitment to him that I would do it when he was gone.” Initially, Colleen considered Michigan State University, but a friend turned her on to American Sentinel University. “I was impressed with the professors and the accreditation, plus the program was recommended by trusted colleagues.”
Colleen enrolled in the BSN in 2012. “Right away, I started gaining all these different perspectives from the other students,” she says. “It got me thinking about the future and my own goals. This has always been a goal, but I was also doing this to make myself more marketable.”
Equipped for new career challenges
After she graduated in 2014, Colleen was asked to become involved with the creation of McLaren’s new trauma program—and serve as its manager. She also took on another challenge: the MBA Healthcare at American Sentinel. “I feel that any opportunity for growth requires a master’s degree, but I chose the MBA Healthcare because it’s everything I didn’t know,” she says. “I have 30 years of nursing under my belt, but this program introduced me to strategic planning, finance, and much more.”
Colleen chose the project-based MBA Healthcare, which has students develop a real-world healthcare project. She used McLaren’s trauma program for her project. “It really helped me so much,” she says. “It made the MBA manageable because I was melding what I was doing at work with my course work.” Colleen finished the MBA Healthcare in March 2017.
Back to life
Now returning to a life without school, Colleen says things feel different in the best way possible. Her school endeavors were more meaningful than just a career boost. “Being a student these past five years helped me heal,” she says. “I could have mourned Tom in some other way, but this was a way to honor him for everything he contributed to me being the nurse I am today. I don’t know that I would have kept a promise like this to myself, but when I made the promise to him, there was no going back on it. I know he would be proud.”
Inspired by Colleen’s story? An MBA Healthcare is perfect for healthcare professionals seeking to lead in the rapidly evolving healthcare industry. 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.