At the age of 18, Erin Wassink started working as a nurse aide at Sunset Manor, an assisted living and memory care facility in Jenison, Michigan, her hometown. “I fell in love with it quickly and decided I wanted to become a nurse,” says Erin.
After graduating, she continued to work at Sunset Manor while attending Davenport University. Because the university didn’t have a nursing program, however, Erin decided to transfer after a year to the ADN program at Grand Rapids Community College. “I’m someone who is determined once I decide I want something,” she says. “I started working as an emergency tech and knew I wanted to become a nurse. I was driven to get there.”
Starting her nursing career
Erin’s first post-ADN job was in the neonatal intensive care unit at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital in 2005. Once again, she felt right at home. “The NICU was a great fit for me—working with premature babies and their parents,” she says. “I got to know families really well and it was a wonderful experience.”
But after Erin started having her own children, she accepted a position at Holland Hospital that was closer to home and offered a less hectic pace. She worked in the special care nursery and regular nursery as well as in the post-partum unit. The role allowed her to continue doing what she loved without interfering with her family life.
Stepping away from the workforce
By 2013, Erin had five children under the age of five—two of which are twins. “I love nursing so much, but it was difficult to work and be a mom,” she says. Erin decided to leave Holland and focus on her family. When her twins—the youngest—went to kindergarten, Erin decided it was her time to go to school too. “Getting a bachelor’s degree was always in the back of my mind. I knew that the requirements of nurses were changing, and the time was right.”
Finding American Sentinel University
In late 2017—when all five of her children were off to school themselves—Erin began her research. She needed an online university to fit her busy life and American Sentinel University came recommended by her sister-in-law, an oncology nurse and BSN alumna. “I really liked the flexibility and how cost effective the program is,” she says. Erin enrolled in the BSN program in October 2018 and got to work.
Motivated and excited
When Erin started college, she says she was “unconfident as a student” because she didn’t know computers or how to write a paper. With professor support and encouragement, she became a stronger student with every class. “My confidence soared,” Erin says. “I’m someone who has always had to work for things. So, being in school has been an effort, but it has been worth it.”
Big things to come
In June 2019, Erin graduated from American Sentinel with a 4.0 GPA. “I had this overwhelming joy and happiness and a feeling of true accomplishment,” she says. “I showed my children that it does not matter how old you are: you can do anything you want. And now that I hold this degree, I feel like so many doors will be open for me.”
These days, Erin is eager to get back to nursing and is currently interviewing for different jobs back in the hospital setting. “I’d love to work back in the special care nursery but I’m also considering pediatrics or oncology,” she says. One, day, she might further her education. “I could see myself getting a master’s in nursing education when the kids are older. I know I’d never regret furthering my education, and it’s something that will allow me to advance my career.”
Inspired by Erin’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. Have you dreamed of earning your BSN, MSN or DNP? With American Sentinel, you can make that dream a reality.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.