At the age of 16, Eileen Allen went through a transformative experience that would shape her outlook on life—and her career trajectory. “My mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I remember spending time in the hospital with her and getting to know a lot of different nurses,” recalls Eileen, who was born and raised in Branchburg, New Jersey. She recalls admiring her mother’s nurses for their compassion for patients. A few years later, Eileen herself decided that nursing was her calling, and earned an associate degree at the nearby community college.
The start of her career
In 1991, Eileen got a job at then-named Somerset Medical Center, where she continues to work today (though the hospital has changed names). She started as a staff nurse in the orthopedic department, then did ambulatory services. Most of Eileen’s career, however, has been in the same-day surgery unit. “It’s been an awesome place to be,” she says. “Not only do you take care of patients in-house in same-day surgery, you make sure they have safe discharge and safe outcomes when they leave.”
Somerset Medical—now the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Somerset—holds a lot of special meaning for Eileen too. She was born there, and so were her children.
Thinking about school
Seven years ago, Eileen began thinking about returning to school. “Somerset was going through the process of becoming a Magnet hospital, and with that, they wanted 80 percent of our nurses to become certified or get the BSN,” she says. With three children, she was uncertain about her ability to fit school into her busy life, but the organization offered tuition reimbursement—and great support from management. “It was hard to say no. Going to school for a BSN is something I was always interested in, but this was the right time.”
In 2012, Eileen found American Sentinel University. “I explored several online colleges along with my coworkers in the perioperative department,” she recalls. “I liked the look of the courses at American Sentinel and the supportive environment and just had this feeling it was going to be a great fit.” Along with four others in her area, Eileen began the BSN program. She graduated in 2014.
On for an MSN
In her final two classes at American Sentinel, Eileen started thinking about earning a master’s degree too. “I was motivated and had had such a great experience in the BSN,” she says. “I was reflecting on where I might be in 10 or 15 years, and when you think to the future like that, it makes you realize that education can never hurt you. With the support of my hospital and family, it seems like there’s no downside to doing it.”
An opportunity turned career move
Throughout her career, Eileen has been an outspoken advocate for patients and quality outcomes. So, when Magnet came to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Somerset earlier this year for a site visit to evaluate the hospital’s second Magnet re-designation, the executive team chose Eileen to host the Magnet appraisers for a day. “I loved it, and started thinking about things I might be able to do in that area,” she says. Soon, the stars aligned. A new position—Magnet program coordinator—opened up in summer 2017, and Eileen was encouraged by leadership and peers to apply. Though the job required a master’s degree, because Eileen was in the process of earning one, she was still eligible—and was hired for the job in September.
Impacting patient outcomes
Just two months into the job, Eileen is excited about her new future at the hospital where she has worked for over 25 years. “I just love it,” she says. “I’m already having an impact on patient outcomes, and it’s just so exciting.”
Without the MSN underway—which she hopes to finish in summer 2018—Eileen’s new adventure would never have been possible. “I’m so grateful I’ve gone down this path and I’m excited to have an MSN behind my name, helping me in my career,” she says. “With a nursing education specialization, I hope to continue educating other nurses, maybe as a professor back at American Sentinel one day. Every professor, advisor, and admissions person there has been so great and encouraging. My education has opened my eyes and showed me all these different ways I can have a positive impact on patients. I’m very proud and grateful and would love to give back to the place that has supported me so much.”
Inspired by Eileen’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, or infection control. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.