Helen Olajitan has lived all over the world—and her love of nursing has been with her everywhere she goes. “My mother is the one who suggested I go into nursing, and here I am, 20 years later,” she says. The native of Nigeria became a Registered Nurse in Nigeria in 1992, where she started her career. When she moved with her family to London, England, she worked for the National Health Service in both women’s health and occupational health while earning her BSN at the Royal College of Nursing in 2002.
A move across the globe
In the early 2000s, Helen married and moved to be with her husband in the United States by way of New York. It took some time to get her credentials situated, but in 2004, Helen joined the medical-surgical unit of Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island. But what Helen wanted to do was return to occupational health.
“I really enjoyed that in England and when I looked around for such a role in the U.S., I found something at American Express Corporation,” says Helen. She worked in the company’s in-house medical center in New York City as an occupational health nurse specialist practitioner.
Building her experience
Helen moved to New Jersey in 2007 and accepted a position on the oncology unit with the Princeton Healthcare System. But she missed public health and in 2012, had the chance to become an occupational health nurse specialist consultant once again; working with different institutions such as JFK Medical Center.
At the same time, Helen decided it was good timing to return to school for a Master of Public Health, graduating in 2014. Her occupational health career took her to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. “I realized that my role in public health was actually not all that defined,” she says. “It made me feel that an MSN degree would broaden my experience and make me eligible for leadership roles.” In 2017, Helen enrolled in an online MSN in nursing education, and graduated in 2018.
Her goal: teaching future occupational health nurses
Part of Helen’s goal with an MSN in nursing education was to equip the next generation of nurses to fill roles in occupational health nursing. “Having worked in occupational health for a while, I realized that many in healthcare don’t even understand what occupational health is let alone realize the job opportunities in it,” she says. “It motivated me to get the education I need to train younger nurses.”
New jobs…and a new degree
With an MSN in hand, Helen sought out opportunities to teach in her area and ended up as a clinical instructor at Jersey College of Nursing. She also joined Rutgers University as an occupational health nurse, a role in which she delivers employee health services and provides patient education. “I really enjoy what I do,” she says. “I am part of a team that protects the workforce. If we can prevent illnesses and problems, that is a wonderful thing.”
Her positive experiences at Rutgers and Jersey College led Helen to consider returning to school once again—but this time, for a doctorate. “My goal some day is to do occupational health curriculum development for a college,” she says. “A terminal degree is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time, and I chose American Sentinel University because they are one of the few institutions with a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Educational Leadership.” Helen started the program in February 2019. She plans to finish by early 2021.
Helen hopes to be in a position to influence nursing education. “I’d like to be a professor who exposes nurses to occupational health as a career path,” she says. “Many nurses don’t even know this area exists. It’s an important area and a great career path. We need to train nurses in this area and I am hoping one day I can be that person.”
Inspired by Helen’s story? A DNP with a specialization in educational leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in nursing education programs. 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.