Sharon VanDalinda’s first college degree was an associate’s degree in liberal arts, but a couple of years later she discovered nursing. “Nursing seemed to me to be such a diverse career no matter where you go in your life,” she says. Sharon earned an LPN in 1993, followed by the ADN in 1997. That year, she joined the medical-surgical floor at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, where she’s been ever since.
In 2007, Sharon was ready for a new challenge and moved into the intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Cornwall. “I absolutely love taking care of critical care patients, who are in such a vulnerable time,” she says. “It’s very rewarding and has been interesting to see how healthcare as an industry has changed and evolved through the years.”
To keep up, Sharon began considering earning a BSN as early as her move to critical care, which was also when her daughter was born. “I actually started going back to school at a local college in 2007, but I was taking all of these general education classes and it felt like I would never achieve it,” she says. But when the Institute of Medicine issued a report that recommended that that 80 percent of nurses hold baccalaureate degrees by 2020, Sharon knew it was time to revisit her educational plans. A nurse friend recommended American Sentinel University, and Sharon loved what she saw. “I love this school—the schedule, the availability of classes and the eight-week courses. I always thought a brick-and-mortar setting was the best for me, but with three kids now plus a job, this is perfect for my life.”
Bettering herself at American Sentinel University
Sharon’s BSN experience exceeded her expectations. “I don’t think I believed before I enrolled that my classes would be so relevant to what I do at the bedside,” she says. “To understand the underpinnings of the nursing profession and to dive into topics that apply to my job makes me a better nurse all the way around. I’m more aware in every aspect of my career.”
After graduating in 2015, in fact, Sharon decided to keep at it and earn the MSN, nursing education specialization. “I’m starting to think about my future five and 10 years from now,” she says. “I think whatever I want to do, the MSN will help me.” Recently, Sharon was offered the opportunity to teach as an adjunct at Orange County Community College, where she earned her nursing degree. “I start in September, and I am thrilled. I’m very excited to give back to the place that got me started on this journey.”
Nearing the finish line
Sharon plans to graduate with the MSN in 2018. With the degree in hand, she is certain that more doors of opportunity will open. “I feel like the classes I take will build on my knowledge in a much deeper way,” she says. “I do assessments every day, and now after taking a class on assessments, I’m more thorough, more organized, and I understand the ‘why’ behind them. The entire program has been this way: it’s opened up my eyes.”
Her family has helped her stay the course—especially her husband, mother, and sister. And although she hasn’t done it alone, Sharon encourages other nurses thinking about going back to school to consider American Sentinel. “I absolutely recommend American Sentinel for lots of reasons, but mostly because they will be surprised by what they can achieve,” she says. “There are many resources to take advantage of and you can work at your pace. I’m very happy I went for it.”
Inspired by Sharon’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.