When Lars Summerhays moved to Utah from Sweden at the age of 15, nursing wasn’t on his radar for a possible career. After graduating high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at Brigham Young University and went on to become a pilot for the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer. Along the way, he earned a master’s in international affairs from Catholic University of America.
Inspired to care for others
Lars’s lifelong battle with Chron’s Disease eventually ended his Air Force Career after six years, but the care he received shaped his next steps. “The Air Force nurses were really the ones who inspired me to go into nursing,” says Lars, who worked after the military for a defense contracting firm as a network administrator.
After giving it some thought, he went back to school at Utah Career College and earned the ADN in 2006. He started his career as a staff Registered Nurse in the medical/surgical department of Jordan Valley Medical Center, then gained experience in retina surgery and utilization review before joining Salt Lake Regional Medical Center in 2010 as a gastrointestinal surgery coordinator.
Time for further education
For almost a decade, Lars had been thinking about a BSN. “Right after getting the ADN in 2006, I started an online BSN program at Penn State University,” he says. He was only a few classes short of graduating when his grandfather back in Sweden became ill and Lars returned home to be his hospice nurse. Life went on and Lars simply didn’t have it in him to return to school after the passing of his grandfather, so he set the endeavor aside. “It was something I knew I would do eventually, but my heart wasn’t in it then.”
Discovering American Sentinel University
In 2016, American Sentinel representatives came to Salt Lake City Regional Medical to share more about their educational partnership between the university and the hospital. “I was very intrigued by the opportunity to get both the BSN and MSN simultaneously,” Lars says. “The BSN was the stepping stone I knew I needed, with so many hospitals now requiring that all nurses get one. But I’d been thinking about teaching one day—I’d taught classes while in the Air Force and some clinicals earlier in my career—and I also wanted to get an MSN.” Lars enrolled in the BSN and MSN Nursing Education specialization that year.
Flexible to fit his life
As a busy operating room nurse, Lars says that the flexibility of American Sentinel was the programs’ best feature. “I could fit school into my schedule, whether I wanted to get up early or work late,” he says. “In the OR, sometimes I’d work for 24 hours straight. The ability to pursue this around my life was really great.”
Lars graduated with the BSN in 2017 and continued straight into the MSN, which he completed in May 2018. His goal: to teach in an online nursing program part time while continuing in a clinical role.
A new job in kidney care
Lars’s additional education has already enabled him to pursue new career opportunities. After seven years at Salt Lake City Regional Medical, he was open to new possibilities—and a friend from nursing school encouraged him to apply to his employer, Fresnius Kidney Care. Lars accepted a job as an acute dialysis nurse in March 2018. “I absolutely love it,” he says. “It’s a great company and an interesting job travelling around to different hospitals to provide dialysis treatment to hospitalized patients.”
Soon, Lars and his wife hope to return to Sweden, where their daughter is currently in medical school—and he hopes to transfer with Fresnius, an international company. “When we move back, I plan to pursue teaching,” says Lars, who also just started an MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program, which he expects to complete in 2020. His education will allow him to reach those goals. “I’m very happy with American Sentinel. I had an awesome advisor and felt like it was a comfortable learning environment. Never once did I feel alone. Whatever I needed, the university was eager to offer. It’s a great program I’ve recommended to many others.”
Inspired by Lars’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.