Twenty-five years ago, Dave Schmidt earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history and began his career at an inpatient behavioral health unit. “It was such an interesting area that I wanted to get more education, but as I researched ways to do so, I found that nursing was the best pathway,” says Dave, a native of New Jersey who has lived in Pennsylvania since college.
So, on he went to Lancaster General Hospital’s School of Nursing for a diploma, which he received in 1998. Dave worked as a travel nurse for five years, gaining experience in emergency care and intensive care. He took a full-time job at Lancaster General Hospital’s open heart intensive care unit. There, he met his future wife, also a nurse, whom he would marry a year later.
Community Health Systems
In 2007, Dave joined Brandywine Hospital, an affiliated facility of Community Health Systems (CHS), one of the nation’s leading operators of general acute care hospitals. He was the emergency department director, while also serving as the deputy coroner for the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office—a role in which he put his nursing and psychology backgrounds to good use.
When the chief nursing officer position opened up at a CHS-affiliated hospital, Jennersville Regional Medical Center, Dave was encouraged by one of his mentors at work to apply for the job. He was hired in 2011, “It was a big leap for me and an eye-opening experience to deal with division leadership and all of the aspects that you face as a hospital administrator,” he says.
One of the stipulations of getting hired was that Dave would need to get his MSN within four years. So, he immediately began looking for an online MSN program that would fit his busy life and help him meet his goals. “The name that kept popping up was American Sentinel University,” he says. “I heard many good things and liked the curriculum of the nursing management and organizational leadership specialization.” In 2012, Dave enrolled in the MSN program.
A detour and a new opportunity
In 2015, Dave decided to try something new and left the CHS system to take a CNO position with HealthSouth Mechanicsburg, an acute rehabilitation hospital. “It was a great experience, but I realized that I still have a passion for acute care,” he says. “I love the emergency department and the intensive care unit. There is still an emergency nurse in me!”
Eight months later, Dave interviewed for the CNO job at another Community Health Systems-affiliated hospital, Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center—and got the job. He returned back “home” to CHS, this time working at the 148-bed community hospital just a few miles from his house. “I’m so happy to be here,” he says. “There are a lot of great things going on here as the hospital moves toward nonprofit status through its current acquisition by Pinnacle Health Systems. It’s an exciting time to return.”
Approaching the finish line
Slowly but surely, Dave has worked toward earning the MSN, nursing management and organizational leadership. He will graduate in June 2017. “These CNO positions would not have been open to me if I weren’t pursuing the MSN,” Dave says, adding that fortuitously, course work has often coincided with things going on at the hospital like strategic planning and employee morale initiatives.
Although making the time for school hasn’t been easy, in the end, Dave knows it is worth it. “American Sentinel has been great. Wonderful classes, great professors—some of whom have gone above and beyond—and excellent classes. I feel I’ve been given a well-rounded view of what’s happening in nursing around the country and the education to inspire change in my own community.
Inspired by Dave’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.