When Leigh Anne Zach was growing up in Georgia, she had plans to become a veterinarian. But after doing a little research, she decided on the nursing path instead. She earned an Associate Degree of Nursing in 1987 and started her career working in pediatrics. “In a lot of ways, the path made sense,” says Leigh Anne. “I considered children very similar to animals in that they’re innocent beings that need someone to advocate for them. That’s what I loved about being a pediatric nurse.”
After seven years in pediatric nursing, Leigh Anne had her first child and stepped away from nursing. She worked part time in the office of her children’s preschool and as the years went on, became an active volunteer at her children’s school. By then Leigh Anne was living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and also volunteered at Penrose Cancer Center—now part of Centura Health—in the genetic counseling department. “My mother had breast cancer and I saw how much help they needed when I went with her to appointments, so I started volunteering,” she says.
Back to work
In 2007, Leigh Anne’s volunteer efforts at Penrose Cancer Center led her to an opportunity for employment. She joined the research department as a staff member, coordinating records for clients and patients and helping administer guidelines for clinical trials. The job, she says, is rewarding in so many ways. “It means a lot to me to work in this field because of my mother,” she says. “Several people in my family have had cancer, so it is something that hits close to home. It is a fight I want to end.”
Thinking about school
For years, Leigh Anne thought about getting the BSN. “When I first started nursing school, the plan was always to get a bachelor’s degree,” she says. “But when I started working, it didn’t seem as important.” Her busy life working and raising children made her push it off, but in 2016, Leigh Anne decided it was time to pursue her dreams. “Suddenly, my kids were all off to the military and school and I thought, ‘This is my time.’”
Aside from the personal motivation, Leigh Anne was thinking about her future at Penrose Cancer Center. “I’ve been out of nursing for a long time now, but we have research nurses here and I think I would absolutely love that job,” she says. In 2017, she attended a Centura Health education fair, talked to several colleges and universities, and found that American Sentinel University was the best fit. “There were several things that stood out. One was the military spouse discount, which I think is so awesome, and another was how great they are about transfer credits. That saved me time and money.”
Leigh Anne started school in June 2017. After 30 years being out of school, Leigh Anne was admittedly nervous about being out of school, but says that the online structure surprisingly fit her life well. “I stayed ahead of the game because I was motivated to keep my stress level down, and I feel like American Sentinel supports you in that,” she says. After two years of hard work, Leigh Anne graduated with the BSN in June 2019.
Plans to find her dream job
After 13 years working in clinical trials, Leigh Anne hopes to secure a research nurse position at Centura Health the next time such a role becomes available. “I definitely think the BSN qualifies me, along with my experience,” she says.
To other working parents who doubt their ability to earn a BSN after their children have gone on to pursue their own dreams, Leigh Anne says education is always worthwhile. “The whole experience has been really educational for me,” she says. “And my adult children were honestly my biggest cheerleaders along the way.”
Inspired by Leigh Anne’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.