After having her first child, Dana Mitchusson was inspired to become a nurse to help other families going through the transformative experience that is becoming a parent.
Originally from Arkansas, Dana moved all around the country due to her husband’s Navy career before getting her Associate Degree of Nursing in 1986 at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida. She considered starting in the neonatal intensive care unit, but instead went on to gain clinical experience in many areas—surgery, oncology, medical-surgical and the intensive care unit—before she ended up working in the emergency department.
Discovering her niche
In 2002, Dana took a job in infection control. “I loved it,” she says. “It’s the one area where you can prevent diseases and problems before they happen as opposed to reacting to them.” While working, she raised her two sons as well. In the back of her mind was the goal of one day returning to school. But life prevented her from ever getting started. “I was bound and determined to get my BSN one day, but there was always something happening, between work, moving and parenting.” In the mid-1990s, Dana and her family returned to Arkansas, where they have been ever since.
A life tragedy, a big decision
In 2011, Dana lost her oldest son, who was 32 years old. “Not long after I said, ‘I’m doing this,’” she recalls. “Something about what we’d gone through made me decide it was time. It helped me work through what had happened.” Dana researched BSN and MSN programs with a specialization in infection prevention and control and came across American Sentinel University.
“I had never actually thought of doing a master’s degree, but when I realized I could do the RN to MSN bridge program, that really got my attention,” Dana says. She started the program in 2012.
Unexpected road block
In her first year in the MSN program, Dana was diagnosed with stage three lymphoma and went through six months of treatment. She had to take time off school to regain her strength but says that never once did she think about quitting. Two years after that diagnosis, while in remission, Dana was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Despite it all, Dana was focused on completing what she had started at American Sentinel. “School honestly kept me going,” she says. “I kept telling myself that when I got through all this, I would wish I had done it. Life has thrown a lot at me, but I know I can survive it. I said, ‘I am getting this degree or I will die trying.’”
Reaching her goal, starting a new chapter
In 2017, six years after she started, Dana completed the MSN Infection Prevention and Control. “American Sentinel was there for me every step of the way,” she says. “I went through a whole lot to make this degree happen. The people there were wonderful and helped me whenever I needed it.”
After six and a half years at Siloam Springs Regional Hospital, Dana joined Catholic Health Initiatives St. Vincent in Little Rock in May 2018. She is now a senior infection control coordinator and quality manager. “I think having the master’s degree was key to me getting the job,” she says.
Her MSN experience lit a fire in her and Dana now plans to earn the Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership. “I never want to retire, but I’d love to teach and I know the DNP would open doors for me,” she says. “One thing I learned in school is that it’s never too late to go after a dream. Life happens, whether you’re pursuing a big goal like a degree or not, so my advice to anyone who is thinking about school is to just do it. There’s no better time than today to start.”
Inspired by Dana’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, infection control, or case management. 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.