After a decade as a retail sales manager for a big box electronics chain, Shawna Ward knew it was time for a change. “I’d started there as a cashier at 18 years old and within a few years I was a salaried assistant manager,” says Shawna, who has lived most of her life within 15 miles of her birthplace, Portland, Oregon. Although she was moving up in the company and the money was good, after a while, she felt something was missing.
When her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, a seed was planted in Shawna’s mind. “Throughout that experience, I dealt a lot with my grandma’s nurses and doctors,” she says. “It all taught me that I am someone others can lean on and that I love taking care of people. I became inspired to think about whether I was really doing what I wanted to do in my life.”
Off to Become an LPN
In 2013, Shawna decided to trust her instincts to follow her heart. That intuition led her back to school, where she became a Certified Nurse Aid and then a Licensed Practical Nurse. She gained experience in several short-term and long-term skilled rehabilitation and nursing facilities to affirm that she enjoyed healthcare. A “great fit” from the start, Shawna began working toward her Associate Degree of Nursing in early 2015. In the meantime, Shawna joined an urgent care facility of Kaiser Permanente.
Starting American Sentinel’s BSN
In 2016, several universities came to Sumner College to present information about their BSN and MSN programs. Shawna attended the education fair and met representatives from all of them. “American Sentinel stood out because they were so happy to answer every question I had and provide any information I asked for,” she says. “I liked that I could start whenever I wanted with their rolling enrollment periods, and talking to them was low pressure—they really just wanted to get to know me and make sure I had what I needed to make a good decision.”
In early 2017, Shawna graduated as a Registered Nurse from Sumner College and enrolled at American Sentinel to begin the BSN in May. Now in her fourth class, Shawna couldn’t be happier about the BSN program so far. “I really just love it,” she admits. “I’m learning so much more about things like leadership and evidence-based research and the many perspectives of nursing.”
A Big Opportunity and a Life Change
Amid all her other life changes, Shawna also became engaged to her longtime boyfriend, whom she has known since high school. With Shawna’s graduation on the horizon, the couple talked about embarking on a new adventure: a cross-country move. After a visit to see friends living in Austin, Texas, Shawna applied to Seton Healthcare’s residency program, a 12-month program that integrates new RNs into the hospital through one of its clinical specialty practice tracks. “In nursing school, I’d done a clinical rotation in labor, delivery, and postpartum and loved it,” Shawna says. She was hired for the labor and delivery residency track, and is starting in the October 2017 class.
Excited About the Future
This month, Shawna moved from Portland to Austin to start her residency program at Seton Healthcare. She will graduate with the BSN in summer 2018. Although just about everything in her life has changed for her in the last few years, Shawna is already embracing whatever the future holds. “I ventured out of my comfort zone into nursing and now I’m doing so again with this move to Austin,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to starting this new journey and finishing my BSN. The way I see it, being in the BSN as I begin my nursing career will help me stay open minded and apply what I learn in class on the job. I’m excited and very happy about where things are going.”
Inspired by Shawna’s story? A BSN with a specialization in educational leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in nursing education programs. 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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