When Kristi Felix worked at a nursing home the summer after high school, she says the job never felt like work. “It was just taking care of people, which I really loved,” says Kristi, who grew up in York, Nebraska. From that age, she knew nursing or something similar was her calling and she followed in many family members’ footsteps to attend Hastings College. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology—a four-year degree at her parents’ encouragement—and an RN diploma shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital-based program.
After graduating from nursing school in 1987, Kristi blended her psychology degree and nursing diploma and started working at a psychiatric pediatric hospital. A few years later she became an assistant director of nursing at a long-term care facility, where part of her job was infection control, and she later became a long-term care consultant for nursing homes.
In 1995, Kristi applied to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital to achieve a better work-life balance while raising her young children and take on a new challenge. Overseeing infection prevention and control at the hospital was and still is part of her responsibility. She’s been with Madonna ever since. “I’ve had great opportunities to do a lot of different roles here,” she says. “We have a long-term intensive care unit and rehabilitation hospital as well as a skilled nursing facility. I’ve taught nursing assistant classes, which I loved, and I’ve worked as a consulting nurse for the assisted living facility. My role in infection prevention here has evolved and grown as the needs have changed.”
Going back to school
For many years, Kristi has thought about going back to school. “I started thinking about a master’s in infection prevention and control a few years ago,” she says. “I am a member of the National Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), and I learned from colleagues there about American Sentinel University.” She didn’t start the MSN there, however. Instead, Kristi began an RN to MSN program at Nebraska Wesleyan University in her town, which would earn her a BSN along the way.
But she continued hearing positive things about American Sentinel through APIC. “I decided to finish the BSN at Wesleyan and move to American Sentinel for the MSN in infection prevention and control,” Kristi says. “That specialization isn’t offered at a lot of places and was very appealing to me as someone who has worked in infection control for 27 years. I really like the idea of specializing my education in something I do every day.” Kristi began the MSN infection prevention and control specialization in 2017. She plans to graduate in 2019.
Now is the best time
To anyone who has a busy life, a busy job and a family, Kristi says this: it can be done. “I started back to school for the BSN when my son had just graduated high school and my daughter was still in high school,” she recalls. “Our life was so busy, but it had been busy leading up to that and is busy today. There is never a good time to take on school, but if it is something you want, now is the best time!”
On top of the MSN program’s specialization that is a perfect fit for Kristi’s career, American Sentinel’s flexibility has been a tremendous benefit. “That’s a big reason I decided to go for it,” she says. “I was very scared of online learning at first, but it has been easy to get used to and there are many people at the university willing to help you.”
Bolstering her future
When she graduates, Kristi hopes her degree will open doors at Madonna. She wants to get more involved with APIC too. “I’m glad I’ve done this,” she says. “I feel it’s beneficial no matter what I do next. “At American Sentinel, you’re constantly learning from others at different hospitals around the country. It has benefitted me in ways I didn’t consider. I’m glad I took the leap.”
Inspired by Kristi’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.