At the age of 15, Ariel Casillas didn’t expect that one day, he would be on a journey to earn an MSN Family Nurse Practitioner degree. The Boston native dropped out of high school as a sophomore to take care of his troubled mother and younger sisters. It wasn’t until he was turned on to Job Corps, a vocational training program, and completed his secondary education that he got back on track and set his sights on college.
Inspired to pursue nursing
“I remember that we had a neighbor when I was young who had cancer and we visited her several times in the hospital,” recalls Ariel. “I saw how nurses interacted with her and it made me think about that as a possible career.” At 16, Ariel became a nursing assistant and it was onward and upward from there. He went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse at 18, which he continued to do for five years. In 2016, Ariel returned to school for an Associate Degree of Nursing.
Starting his career as an RN
In 2016, Ariel —by then a Florida resident—started his nursing career with One Patient Services, a drug manufacturer. When the company closed, he took a contract position as regional director of operations for Orlando Family Physicians before accepting a job as a unit manager of the subacute unit at Florida Living Nursing Center. From there, Ariel got into home health, where he was promoted to director of nursing. In 2018, he became a regional nurse consultant and director of nursing for Priority Staff Force.
On for more school
In 2018, Ariel decided to pursue a goal he had been wanting to for a long time: a bachelor’s degree. An online search led him to American Sentinel University, where he discovered he could earn credit for his experience through the SIMPath® BSN program. “The cost, the ability to complete as many competencies as I wanted at a time, and everything else just seemed amazing,” he says.
Ariel got to work. He finished an astounding 10 competences over the course of a few months in 2018, all while maintaining a full-time job. “I was focused on it,” he says. “I felt like not having a BSN was holding me back. I thought, for as many years as I’ve been a nurse, this is important.”
MSN Family Nurse Practitioner
A fire was lit under Ariel when he started at American Sentinel, and once his BSN was complete, he decided his educational journey wasn’t over. “I want to take my patient care to a higher level,” he says. “I know there is a shortage of Nurse Practitioners and I believe they could help fill the gap I see in healthcare between providers and patients.”
Ariel started the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program at American Sentinel in early 2019. “My goal is to open my own practice or partner with someone else one day,” he says. He will graduate in June 2021. This time, he’s taking one class every eight weeks, soaking up everything he can from each course.
Setting the example
“This program isn’t easy, but the great thing about American Sentinel is that you get so much support from the professors,” Ariel says. Now in the process of adopting a baby girl, Ariel says that furthering himself through education is about much more than himself. It’s about family. “I am the first person in my entire family to graduate from college, and I want to set the example for my brothers, sisters and daughter that you can do what you set your mind to. You can work your way up from the bottom if you work hard. I want to share that message.”
Inspired by Ariel’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.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.
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