Victoria Okanlawon has always enjoyed helping people, which is what led her into nursing school as a young woman. “I became educated and registered as a nurse and a midwife in my home country of Nigeria,” says Victoria, who worked in medical-surgical floors and labor and delivery units for about a decade. In 2005, she returned to college for further education, earning a bachelor’s degree in health education. She became certified as a public health nurse in 2006.
Preparing herself for the future away from bedside nursing
Victoria’s educational pursuits were intended to secure her future as a nursing leader. “That became my goal and I knew that education would help me get there,” she says. Life changed, however, when Victoria suddenly had the opportunity to come to the United States. She was selected by lottery to apply for a United States visa and before she knew it, she, her husband and children were packing their bags. She arrived in Texas in 2007.
Passing exams, getting situated to practice
It took some time for Victoria to get the credentials she needed to practice nursing in the U.S. While working for the Department of Criminal Justice, she passed the NCLEX and received her registered nurse license in Texas by 2009. Then, she took a position as a psychiatric nurse at San Antonio State Hospital late that year. “Mental health nursing is challenging every day but also very rewarding,” Victoria says. “I love where I work. I have learned so much and opportunities have come my way.”
Moving up positions at San Antonio State Hospital
Victoria spent six years as a psychiatric nurse. As she moved into management, she knew that further education was important. “I knew what I wanted and I knew that education was the way to get there,” she says. Her husband and four daughters were so supportive and after some initial trepidation, Victoria found American Sentinel University “I reached out and was so impressed right away. I knew it was a fit.”
Starting with the BSN
Victoria started the BSN program first, in 2017. “The bachelor’s degree I received from my university in Nigeria was not a BSN, so I knew that it was important for me to start there,” she says. Victoria graduated with a BSN from American Sentinel University in 2019. Her hard work and efforts along the way were recognized and rewarded. She received the South Texas Nurse Image Maker Award in 2017 and the State Hospital System Hero Award from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in 2018.
End game: Chief Nursing Executive
After completing the BSN—and becoming a manager at her organization—Victoria decided to continue on for an MSN in Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership. “One day I want to become a Chief Nursing executive of an organization and that requires a master’s degree,” she says. Without taking much of a break, she enrolled in American Sentinel’s MSN program. Victoria also accepted a position as nurse administrator at San Antonio State Hospital in 2018.
Victoria hopes to complete the MSN in 2020. And wherever it takes her, she is excited about what the future holds. She is also appreciative of American Sentinel. “My experience at American Sentinel has been amazing,” she says. “Everyone there is dedicated. You do not feel estranged as you go through your program, and the quality of both programs I’ve been in has been so great. They know I have goals and everyone I’ve interacted with there has stayed connected with me to ensure I will reach them. At American Sentinel, you feel like family.”
Inspired by Victoria’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, infection control, or case management. 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.