When Sally Brown completed her BSN in June 2017, she felt a wide range of emotions. “I’ve dealt with a lot of different things in the last four years I’ve been in school,” says Sally. At the top of the list: multiple myeloma for her husband and her own diagnosis of stage three breast cancer. Through their treatments, however, Sally stayed positive and never considered quitting the program she started in 2013. “If I gave up school, the cancer won, and I didn’t want it to. This was something I’ve wanted for a long time. I wasn’t willing to quit.”
Started as a nurse aide
Out of high school, Sally worked in many different jobs before becoming a Certified Nurse Aide as a married mother of two. After a few years, she went to nursing school and graduated in 1993, starting her career at Zeeland Community Hospital—now Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital. She worked in a variety of areas—from admissions to case management—but has largely focused on medical/surgical, which she refers to as “the position I really love.”
After many years with Spectrum, Sally decided it was time to earn the BSN. “My employer was pushing all ADN-prepared nurses toward the BSN, and it seemed like the right time to do it,” she says. As an educational partner of Spectrum, American Sentinel University came recommended by colleagues and Sally liked what she learned. “American Sentinel’s BSN really seemed to fit what I need. With my employer’s support, I got started. It was a great decision.”
A fight to the finish
When cancer changed her and her husband’s life, Sally had to dig deep to find the strength to continue, but she received great support from many in her life. “I didn’t do this alone—I had my family, my employer, my coworkers and everyone at American Sentinel,” she says. Even through chemotherapy and radiation herself, Sally says she kept her eye on the finish line. “Honestly, I just put my head down and did what I had to.”
An influence for her daughters
Sally’s two daughters are now deep into their own careers. One is a cardiothoracic surgical resident at Yale School of Medicine while the other, a professor at Vermont University, is working toward her Ph.D. “Deep down, I always wanted to get my bachelor’s degree for the pride of my daughters,” Sally says. “I wanted to show them that when they were little and I got my associate degree, it was the start of lifelong learning.”
Now that Sally has graduated with the BSN, she’s eagerly looking forward, but knows that tomorrow is promised to no one. “I’m looking forward to normal life again, but I know now that life is about taking action on what you want,” she says. “Cancer wasn’t my choice, but getting a degree was. My plan now is to celebrate the accomplishment and go forward enjoying life the best I can.”
Inspired by Sally’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.
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