Dr. Elaine Foster, Ph.D., MSN, RN, Dean of Nursing and Healthcare Programs at American Sentinel University is here to give you and your career a quick check-up (no blood draw necessary)! The Career Check-Up with Dr. Elaine Foster outlines advice and insight on going back to school to earn your MSN or DNP degree.
This month the American Nurses Association has chosen happiness as one of the key measures in this year’s “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation” campaign. As nurses, we tend to be so focused on caring for others, we often neglect our own health and personal happiness. So stop and think: when was the last time you contemplated what makes you truly happy? If the thought of earning your MSN or DNP has ever crossed your mind, this is your chance to rewrite your future.
There are lots of things in this world that make a person happy, i.e. putting your feet up at the end of a long shift, and sharing a Netflix movie and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with someone you love. All of these things contribute to health and happiness to some degree. Elevating your legs is healthy. Spending time relaxing with loved ones is key to mental and emotional health and happiness. And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying ice cream in moderation. But what if you substituted the movie with some online learning?
The balancing act
Of course, this is just an example, but the point is this: the time you spend watching a movie isn’t likely to change your life in a meaningful way, advance your career or increase your earning potential. Nor will it impact the future of patient care, or ensure that you wake up happy to go to work. However, earning your MSN or DNP can do all of those things and more. I am living proof that this is true.
Juggling school with work, family and friends is rarely anyone’s idea of fun; however, it can make you incredibly happy in the long run. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate as much as I did. Earning my doctorate has paid for itself many times over, and it’s why after 33 years I still wake up excited to go to work. But back when I made the decision, this was anything but easy or obvious.
I swore I’d never go back to school
I had every reason in the world not to go. I’m talking about really good excuses: my son was active in sports and he and my daughter were both active in the Junior Angus Association. Then on occasion, I was obliged to help my husband on the family farm. On top of all of this, my 12-year old daughter was struggling with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and I was dealing with Lupus. Between the doctor appointments and my son’s events, we were always on the road. Additionally, I didn’t have the money to pay for school on my own.
The only reason I went back to school was this: I knew it would make me happy in the long run. I wanted to invest in my education because I believed it would be of great value to me and to my profession. At the time, there were no guarantees of a better job with higher pay. There were no interest-free loans. But the return on investment has been well worth the time and effort.
How to know when you’re ready
The bottom line is this: if you want your MSN or DNP badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it work – like swapping the Netflix movie with some laptop learning, for example. My daughter, who went on to win Miss American Angus, put it this way to the judges: “obstacles are only as big as you make them.” I’m not sure who encouraged whom the most, but we couldn’t be more proud of each other and how all of this brought our family closer together.