When LeAnn Hardin’s four children were all under the age of five, she realized she needed to do something for herself. “I’d done medical assisting school right out of high school, but got married, had a family, and lost my identity outside of being a mom and a wife for a bit,” says LeAnn, who was born in Indiana, raised in Ohio, and returned to Indiana as an adult. In 1999, she decided it was time to do something for herself and enrolled in an Associate of Science Nursing program at Indiana University. “I’ve always liked helping people and found that healthcare was definitely where my heart is,” she says. She started her nursing career in 2002 when she graduated, working on a medical-surgical floor, in the SICU and finally the OB-ICU at Clarian Health for several years. In 2004, she moved to Arizona and worked per diem labor and delivery for several hospitals.
Plans for a BSN
As soon as she got to Arizona, LeAnn began thinking about returning to school for a BSN. “It’s something I’d had in mind for many years, but it just was never the right time,” she says. She put the plans on the back burner for a while, and in 2007, LeAnn interviewed and was hired as the director of women’s services at Mountain Vista Medical Center. After just 10 days on the job, her husband was in a motorcycle accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
LeAnn’s life was turned upside down and she turned her attention to caring for her husband, raising her children and getting into her new job. After three years, life was finally somewhat stable again and she returned to school. American Sentinel University had come to the hospital to share information about its programs, and LeAnn enrolled in the RN to MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership, starting the program in 2010.
In 2011, four years after his accident, LeAnn’s husband passed away. Once again, she put her school pursuits on hold while she and her family grieved and got their lives back in order. LeAnn switched jobs and became the labor and delivery nurse manager at Maricopa Integrated Health, an acute care and behavioral health organization. But in 2013, she decided it was time to finish what she’d started. She returned to her RN to MSN program at American Sentinel and graduated with the degree in January 2015.
Going to college as a single parent was no small feat, but LeAnn says it instilled the importance of education in her children, who ranged in age from 14 to 19 at the time. “American Sentinel’s online structure worked with my life,” she says. “My kids would go to bed and I would go to school. I could work on school work when it worked best for me.”
Back for an MBA
LeAnn had such a good experience at American Sentinel, in fact, that she decided to go back to the university for an MBA, which she is working on now. “I want to become either a COO or a CNO, and I know that having both the MSN and the MBA will open doors for either of those pathways,” she says. “Nursing is my passion and I love caring for people. But when my husband was injured, I became more aware of the importance of strong leadership in nursing and how that impacts the care that nurses are able to give their patients.”
Plans for the future
In 2015, LeAnn became Maricopa’s nursing director of women and infant services. She started teaching online as an adjunct at Ottawa University as well. As she continues to embrace opportunities that come her way, LeAnn says she hasn’t ruled out further education after she graduates with the MBA in 2019. “I sincerely love what I do, and I know more education couldn’t hurt me,” she says. “I always say there are nurses, and then there are people who do nursing for a living. I’m definitely the former.”
Inspired by LeAnn’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like case management, 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.