Jennifer Gearhart never thought about becoming a nurse until she had eight years of work experience under her belt. “I had married an Army man after high school, had children and moved all over the country,” says Jennifer, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado. When her youngest child started kindergarten, she started working in a U.S. Army dental clinic while living overseas in Germany. After his Army retirement in 2005, the family moved to Florida, where Jennifer got a job in a surgeon’s office.
Nudged toward nursing
At the surgery center, Jennifer was encouraged by her boss to consider nursing. “I was actually in school to become a dental hygienist,” she says. “But when the doctor I worked for mentioned nursing, I started thinking what a good idea it was.” Soon, she switched gears in school and earned an ADN from the local community college.
Oak Hill Hospital
That same year, Jennifer got a job at Oak Hill Hospital, an HCA facility with 280 acute care beds. She started on the neurology/telemetry floor for three years before joining the stepdown intensive care unit, treating open-heart postoperative, stroke, cardiac, respiratory failure and septic patients.
In 2015, Jennifer was looking for a change and moved into Oak Hill’s float pool. “I got to do a little of everything—from medical/surgical to ortho to progressive care,” she says. When the hospital wanted to create an admission unit in early 2018, Jennifer helped get it off the ground and transition it into a cardiac observation unit.
Starting a BSN program
Around this time, Jennifer’s previous director from the float pool was encouraging her to get a BSN. “I told him the unit needed a manager and he said I should work on my bachelor’s,” she says. When American Sentinel University came to Oak Hill to share more about its nursing programs, she learned that the hospital’s CNO, Leanne Salazar, is a current student. “It spoke a lot to me because it made me realize how supportive our leadership is of education. They want us to move up in our careers and want to see us be successful, and they’re willing to support us financially and otherwise to make that happen.”
Jennifer enrolled in the BSN program at American Sentinel in fall 2017. She knows that having her bachelor’s degree will help her get where she wants to go: management. “I’d like to be a director of a unit one day,” she says, adding that she’s even considering pursuing an MSN after she graduates with the BSN in June 2019. “American Sentinel has given me the confidence to push myself, which I never thought I’d do.”
An employer she loves
As her only employer as a nurse, Oak Hill Hospital has exceeded Jennifer’s expectations as far as opportunity. “They are very invested in our success here and want us to be happy,” she says. “I don’t think all employers are like that.”
In fact, in October, Jennifer took on an interim manager position of the surgical unit at Oak Hill—a move she knows was made possible for her because of her education pursuits. “I’m very excited about where things are going,” Jennifer says. “When I was young, nobody really told me I could be anything I wanted to be. Now that I’ve gone after this career, and my family has been so behind me, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I am good at nursing. I’m good at school. I have something to offer the world and I’m motivated to go as far as I can—because I can.”
Inspired by Jennifer’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.