Kathy Hill worked as a secretary at Geisinger Medical Center for four years before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered Nurse.
“One day, a manager asked if I would be interested in nursing, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a few classes,” says Kathy, who grew up in Berwick, Pennsylvania. “I always say that nursing found me, I didn’t find it!” She earned an associate degree through a Geisinger partnership with Pennsylvania State University—while working full time and becoming a new mother—and after graduating in 2005, started her career in the medical/surgical area.
Building her specialties
Kathy gained experience in medical/surgical as well as dialysis before moving into pre-surgery in a Geisinger clinic in 2008. “I learned all about anesthesia and did some teaching and discovered that I really liked mentoring others,” Kathy says. She became a team leader in 2013, supervising clinic personnel and coordinating activities within the clinic.
Improving herself through education
In 2014, Kathy began thinking about her future at Geisinger and wanted to make sure she would always be qualified to take any role that came her way. “Geisinger wants all nurses to be BSN prepared within the next few years, so I knew it was important to stay relevant and solidify my future,” she says. She began perusing BSN programs at universities that are educational partners of Geisinger and discovered American Sentinel University. “I am big on customer service and I experienced incredible service at American Sentinel. The staff and professors are genuine and take a caring, personal approach.” In October 2014, Kathy started the BSN.
Back to the bedside
As she was moving through school, Kathy also realized how much she missed the bedside and working with patients. She started looking for positions that would suit her skills and interests and joined the same-day surgery floor in February 2016. “I absolutely love it and the patients and their families,” Kathy says. “I’m very at home working at the bedside, and I’m very happy to be back doing what I’m good at.”
A great experience
The BSN journey augmented Kathy’s nursing experience and the curriculum was relevant to what she does at work. “I’ve always had empathy, but I gained insight into how to work with different types of patients, how to educate them effectively, the different types of nursing, and so much more. I learned a lot.”
The experience was so positive, in fact, that Kathy concluded she should get the MSN too. “Partway through the BSN it occurred to me how much I was liking school,” she says. “I was learning so much, and this is where nursing is headed—the MSN is the future. I might as well keep going.” Kathy graduated in October 2016 with the BSN and will start the MSN in June 2017.
A goal to teach
Kathy admits that she was also inspired by the professors teaching in her BSN. She chose the nursing education specialization. “Short term, the MSN makes me more marketable and gives me knowledge I’ll use at the bedside,” she says. “Long term, I hope to become a nursing professor online when I retire from the bedside.”
Reflecting on her time in pre-surgery, when Kathy mentored and trained many new nurses, teaching seems like a good fit. “I love working with new nurses. I think when I move toward that, it will suit me well.” When she finishes the MSN, Kathy intends to apply to online adjunct teaching positions.
A degree hard earned
With a teenage daughter who is now starting to think about college, Kathy says her educational pursuits have rubbed off in a good way. “I tell my daughter all the time that even though I’m the mother, I look up to her, because she’s the excellent student and always has been,” says Kathy, who was the first in her family to go to college. “If you’d told the 16-year-old me that one day I would hold a bachelor’s degree and be starting a master’s, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’m nervous about starting the MSN, but so excited. I’m pushing myself in a way I’ve never done. But after finishing the BSN, I know I can do it.”
Inspired by Kathy’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.