As a young girl growing up in the Philippines, Arlene Gonzalves always dreamed of working in the medical field. At the influence of her grandmother, she decided to pursue nursing school, attending the San Juan de Dios Educational Foundation’s nursing school and earning a BSN in 1991. Soon thereafter, she moved to the United States.
A long journey toward the RN
Beginning her nursing career in California was complicated, so Arlene decided to become a Certified Nurse Aide as well as a Licensed Practical Nurse and challenged both exams successfully. For several years, she worked in pediatrics and rehabilitation. That’s when a manager encouraged her to become a Registered Nurse. “I had planned a few times before that to take my boards so I could become an RN, but I became pregnant with my first two children and set it aside,” says Arlene. Finally, with her boss’s support, she finally earned her license in 2004.
Arlene’s first RN position was on the medical/surgical unit of Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, where she specialized in treating neurological, stroke and oncology patients. After having a third child, she sought a daytime schedule, so she took a position at an outpatient clinic serving active-duty and retired military.
A fortuitous move
Arlene’s building also had a Veterans Affairs Medical Center, so when she saw a job posted for the vascular surgery department as a case manager, it was immediately intriguing. “I was looking for a new challenge and loved the idea of working with the VA,” she says. She joined the Sacramento VA Medical Center in 2009.
Several years later, Arlene began thinking about improving herself. “It is becoming more and more competitive in the world of nursing, and the BSN is now expected,” she says. “I wanted to be even better. I wanted to show my kids no matter what age you are, you can always go back to school. Education is your tool to have a better foundation and future in life.”
Searching for the right program
An online search for an MSN program with a case management specialization led Arlene to American Sentinel University. “I really liked the program and the case management classes,” she says. Although she was scared of online learning initially and especially the statistics class, Arlene started in October 2016 and has learned more than she even hoped in each and every class.
“The professors are great and the many resources make it easier for me as a student,” she says. Arlene hopes to graduate in October of this year. “It’s been on my bucket list to earn a master’s degree and with each class, I get so excited that this dream will become a reality soon.”
Opening doors of opportunity
As the only case manager in the vascular surgery department, Arlene is excited for the opportunity that having an MSN will bring. “I am all about providing better patient care and making our processes more efficient,” she says. Arlene even started a program at the VA that the organization expanded nationally, following the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association Save the Vein program. The program encourages hemodialysis patients to wear a wristband alerting medical professionals to protect their arm’s blood vessels.
The effort is an example of the type of advocacy Arlene would like to practice going forward in her career. “School inspired me in lots of ways,” she says. “I’ve been wanting to earn my MSN for over five years, but it just wasn’t meant to be yet. I really believe everything happens for a reason and I’m so glad I found American Sentinel.”
Inspired by Arlene’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.