When Shila Hagar was just 11 years old, her beloved grandfather had open-heart surgery and she visited him in the hospital while he was recovering. “I remember being in awe of the hospital, meeting my grandfather’s nurses and watching what they do and thinking, ‘One day, I want to be smart like that,’” says Shila, who grew up in Alabama. She never wavered from that dream, pursuing an Associate of Science in nursing at Livingston University in 1992 and starting her career in the open-heart unit.
A move to Florida, a new path
In 1996, Shila moved to Florida and moved into critical care at several different hospitals. Eventually she made her way to Tampa General Hospital, where she spent time in the cardiac surgical intensive care unit. She gained experience at other hospitals as well, including Brandon Regional Medical Center and Parallon, among others.
At Parallon, where she worked in the PACU and pre- and post-op, Shila knew it was time to get a BSN. With the full support of her husband, Gary, whom she calls her “biggest cheerleader,” she set out to achieve her goals.
“I knew holding a bachelor’s degree was important and the way nursing was headed,” she says. She searched local and online programs and came across American Sentinel University’s SIMPath® program. “That was very appealing to me to know that I could get course credit for my experience. It was flexible because it was online, but even more flexible because of the structure and the ability it gave me to push through at my own pace.”
Watson Clinic Main
In 2017, Shila joined Watson Clinic as an RN, working in radiology part time. Her move was intentional in order to make time to focus on her studies at American Sentinel.
One of the best parts of Shila’s American Sentinel experience thus far has been the support she has received from her student success advisor, Anna, her professor, Dr. Sarah Moore, and her advisor, Michael, as well as other staff members at the university. “My biggest fear in doing this was not having the resources to reach out to for help,” she says. “When I went to nursing school years ago, we didn’t even have computers. I have gained so much confidence learning how to navigate this online program all on my own, but with help just a phone call away if I ever need it.”
Preparing for her next career journey
Now, Shila is looking to prepare herself for a “phase two” career: working in nursing informatics. “It’s an area that has really interested me in the last several years,” she says. “I’ve been a bedside nurse for 26 years and it’s time to do something totally new.” Once she finishes the BSN in 2019, Shila is planning to get an MSN in nursing informatics at American Sentinel.
“Nursing informatics would be a new adventure for me,” Shila says. “No matter what I do next, I think that you can never have too much education. Going back to school has empowered me to believe in myself and my abilities. And informatics has me really excited about this next chapter.”
Inspired by Shila’s story? A BSN is ideal for nurses who want to expand their knowledge base, become more marketable and enjoy greater career stability and mobility. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of nursing and when you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.