At the age of 25, Angela Beirne woke up one day with surprising calling toward the field of nursing. She had already started down the path toward becoming an accountant, working full time while attending college part time, but the revelation changed everything—including her personal life.
“It was such a strong feeling that I applied to and enrolled in the Associate Degree of Nursing program at Bellevue Community College in Washington, and started working as a housekeeper for a hospital,” says Angela. As an eager new nursing student, she generally sat in the very front of the classroom. When she couldn’t find a parking spot one day and wound up in a seat elsewhere, she happened to sit next to John, a Seattle native also pursuing the RN. They married a year later.
17 years, three states, and two sets of twins later
Now married for 17 years, the Beirnes have lived quite the adventure. They had their first set of twins (girls) in 2000 during John’s final semester of nursing school while Angela was beginning her career in telemetry. After John graduated, the couple moved around—to Idaho, Oregon, and eventually Colorado. Angela gained experience in the burn unit, in cardiovascular/pulmonary care, and psychiatric nursing, while John—who had been a pharmacy technician in the U.S. Navy and for the University of Washington Medical Center—started out in telemetry and later moved into the burn unit and critical care unit. Four years into their nursing careers, their second set of twins (boys) was born.
“We’ve always been a great team, which you have to be with two sets of twins,” says John, adding that the couple spent the first years of their children’s lives working opposite shifts so that one of them could always be home. As they grew their careers and raised their children, returning to school was never on their minds, until the timing seemed right. “We have a friend who was a student at American Sentinel and said it was very achievable. We liked the flexibility, eight-week classes, online structure, affordability and payment options—especially if you’re a veteran or active-duty military member.”
Taking the leap
In January 2017, John and Angela enrolled in the BSN program at American Sentinel. Today, John works for the University of Colorado as an RN for DocLine Communications Center, facilitating patient transfers to seven UC Health hospitals around Colorado. He’s been there since 2007. Angela is also employed by UC Health in the same area, and also works in utilization review for Behavioral Healthcare, an organization that manages mental health services throughout the state. They plan to get MSN degrees as well. “The new bar today is the BSN,” says Angela. “We both felt that if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right and get the MSN too.”
John agrees, adding his own plans to pursue nursing informatics. “I’d like to use my informatics specialization to help bedside nurses be at their best,” he says. “I want to give them the tools to be successful and help eliminate system problems that cause medication errors to occur before nurses get involved. Nurses need all the support they can get. I want to help them become even better than they are.”
Making it happen
Although the Beirnes are just a few months into their educational journeys, both feel confident in their ability to reach their goals. Their advice to other busy parents considering further education: go for it. “It’s challenging, but it is very possible,” Angela says. “Your kids will see the work you put into raising a family, working full time and being a student. You can show them by example that if you dedicate yourself and commit, you can do anything.”
“Somehow, we parents just make things work,” John adds. “If you’re thinking about getting your BSN or MSN, just do it. Jump in and take a chance. You’ll be thrilled at the end that you did and will feel good about your education and future.”
Inspired by the Beirnes’ 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.