After serving seven years in the U.S. Navy as a surgical technician, Jason Smith decided to pursue a career in nursing. “Working full-time as a civilian surgical tech, I earned my RN diploma in 2006 and took a position with the same organization where I went to nursing school,” says Jason, referring to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, a level 3 trauma center. There, he worked his way up from RN circulator in urology, orthopedics, neurology, vascular, general, plastics, and other types of surgery. In 2010, he was promoted to a clinical nurse II and a supervisor in the operating room, and a few years later, was promoted again to team coordinator.
Time for education
Eventually, Jason knew it was important to earn a bachelor’s degree. “I came to a point in my clinical ladder where I knew I could no longer advance without my BSN,” he says. “So, I began the search for a program that would fit my busy life and lifestyle as a full-time evening supervisor, husband, and father of two very active children.” That’s when a colleague told Jason about American Sentinel University. “I was very impressed with the response from American Sentinel advisors.” He decided to take a leap of faith and began the program in 2013.
Within a month of graduating in September 2014, Jason was promoted from team coordinator to manager of the cardiac operating room at Sentara Norfolk General Heart Hospital. “The RN to BSN program gave me a lot of great perspective,” he says. “I felt the structure was perfect for my busy schedule. My critical thinking skills were kicked into high gear. It wasn’t just about me and my patients anymore. I began seeing the bigger picture of healthcare in terms of my community and globally.”
An unexpected opportunity
In 2015, Jason received a call from his former boss, who had relocated to Florida. “He asked if I would be interested in helping him grow a surgery program at a small community hospital in Tampa,” says Jason. “It was a great opportunity and before I knew it, my family and I were packing up to move from where we’d lived for almost 20 years.”
Jason joined Tampa Community, an HCA Healthcare facility, in May 2015 and was the director of surgical services until August 2017 when he was promoted to the same role at Memorial Hospital of Tampa. “It’s a great fit,” Jason says. “We’re growing our robotics and orthopedics programs at an incredible rate.” In fact, Jason adds, his hospital is the only hospital in the HCA system with three da Vinci Xi surgical systems, which integrate 3D HD endoscopy and state-of-the-art robotic technology into the surgical field.
A growing program
For Jason, the new role is an opportunity to be a part of a grassroots surgical program. “I’m so blessed to be in this position,” he says. “I’ve never been one to focus on a 10-year plan, but I’ve always committed to do my best and the future takes care of itself. And thankfully, good things keep coming my way.”
Now three years out from his BSN graduation, Jason admits that the educational investment was worth it. “I was that guy who went kicking and screaming into a BSN, largely because I felt like I had great professional experience,” he says. “However, as the classes went along, I became so engaged in it. It was challenging to work full-time, raise my kids and all of that, but today, I’m so happy I did it. I tell anyone who will listen that the BSN made me much more well-rounded as a nurse.”
An eye on the MBA Healthcare
Soon, Jason expects to start American Sentinel’s MBA Healthcare program. “I’m in a brand-new job right now, but once I get settled, I plan to get that going,” he says. “I definitely plan to go to American Sentinel again.” As a new educational partner of American Sentinel, Jason will receive discounted tuition thanks to his employer reimbursement program. “I recommend American Sentinel to lots of employees here and I’ve already gotten four people in my department to enroll in the BSN. We are being offered an amazing opportunity here to go to a great school. It’s smart to take advantage.”
Inspired by Jason’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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