As a teenage mom, Jessica Hernandez’s first memorable hospital experience wasn’t what she thought it would be. “Unfortunately, it was the first time I remember being in a medical setting and it wasn’t a good one,” she says. Although the experience was negative, Jessica was inspired to become the kind of nurse she had not encountered herself. She became a Licensed Vocational Nurse in 2005 and started working in her home state of California in acute care, home health and private practice settings.
Moving up the ranks
In 2009, Jessica moved to Colorado and got a job in the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office corrections center, while working toward the Registered Nurse credential in 2013. She then moved away from correctional care and into home health with Centura Health while working toward the BSN, which she completed in 2015. The idea of becoming a Nurse Practitioner was planted while working in the jails, she says. “I worked with some amazing Nurse Practitioners and it got me thinking about continuing the expand the scope of my own practice.”
On for an MSN
In 2015, Jessica moved into a home health agency that gives infusion therapies. There, she started researching online NP programs and discovered the MSN Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner at American Sentinel University. “I had actually started an NP program at a different school but was in a car accident and had to take a break,” she says. “In that time, I found American Sentinel online and really liked the look of the program. In home health especially, I see so many gaps in healthcare where I thought, ‘I want to be the person with prescriptive authority who can help these patients.’ Being able to serve my patients fully is more fulfilling to me than just having the Nurse Practitioner.”
Engaged and excited
Jessica will graduate in 2020. While going back to school, she works full time in a hematology/oncology infusion clinic. Despite her hectic schedule, she says earning further education is doable. “The students at American Sentinel are really engaged and that makes it exciting,” she says. “The professors are so supportive of students and so are the advisors.”
Jessica started out in the Family Nurse Practitioner track, but followed her heart into gerontology. “It’s such a vulnerable population that often gets brushed aside, so I’m hoping to be an advocate for those patients,” she says. One day, Jessica wants to move to a rural, underserved area to start a home-based, primary care Nurse Practitioner practice.
Worth the effort
Jessica’s children and stepchildren are all between 11 and 18, so her college efforts are well timed. “What I am doing is definitely rubbing off on the kids in a good way,” she says. Her 18-year-old, in fact, is starting college himself and plans to become a healthcare counselor.
To other parents considering going back to school during what seems like the busiest time of their lives, Jessica says, “Do it.”
“Time passes no matter what, so if you go back now, in a few years, you’ll have your degree,” she says. “For me, the effort has been worth it. Everything I’ve learned is preparing me to take the next steps and it is all so relevant to what I’m learning. Being in school has made me fall in love with learning again.”
Inspired by Jessica’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like family nurse practitioner, adult gerontology nurse practitioner, case management, nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, or infection control. 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.