When Sarah Ackerley was growing up in rural Remsen, New York, her sole focus for a college pursuit was securing herself a stable career. “I was drawn to nursing because it is a good career, but I ended up loving it,” says Sarah. After high school, she moved to Syracuse to pursue a dual ADN/BSN program at Le Moyne College and St. Joseph’s College of Nursing.
From nurse aide to RN
During school, Sarah worked as a student nurse aide and then a Registered Nurse in the surgical cardiology unit at St. Joseph’s Health during her final two years of school as she was finishing the bachelor’s degree. After graduating in 2014, she joined St. Joseph’s Family Medicine Clinic to try out the outpatient setting, while also working part-time at an infusion center.
But Sarah missed the hospital setting. “I was looking for an opportunity to return to the hospital and landed in the interventional cardiology unit, which was different than the surgical cardiology unit where I’d worked before,” she says. Sarah has been back at St. Joseph’s Health since 2016. “I love it. It is the place I’ve been the most mentored by leadership, which shaped how I started thinking about my own career.”
Teaming up with her husband
In 2018, Sarah’s husband, Alonzo—also a nurse at St. Joseph’s Health, whom she met when she was a nurse aide and he was a phlebotomist in the emergency department—started a BSN program at American Sentinel University. “I thought, ‘I should go back to school too,’” she says. Alonzo’s positive experience at the university led Sarah there as well—but for an MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership.
Sarah’s motivation was to equip herself with the skills to pursue leadership positions in the future. “I am the type of person who wants solid background knowledge when I decide to do things, and because I’ve got an eye on management, an MSN seemed important,” she says. Her mentors have helped her chart her course. “It has become clear to me that I have a leadership leaning. My mentors have helped me determine that this program will help open doors.” Sarah started the MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership in May 2018.
Already an open door
Toward the end of 2018, a nurse coordinator position at St. Joseph’s Health opened up. Sarah applied and was hired for the role in January 2019. The job is half patient care, half leadership and management—the perfect blend for Sarah. Drawing on her own experience being mentored, she is helping the hospital create a hospital-wide mentorship program.
“I’ve been given so much encouragement here and I want to do the same for others,” Sarah says. As for her American Sentinel experience so far—she’ll graduate in 2020—she is glad she followed in her husband’s footsteps. “American Sentinel is flexible in its structure and the curriculum has been so applicable to where I work. I know this degree will benefit my career.”
Inspired by Sarah’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.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.