Life at the Kiliszewski household is very busy.
With both Sara and Ted Kiliszewski having spent the last few years of their lives raising young children and going back to college at American Sentinel University, the couple admits that their life right now is all about bettering themselves.
After graduating with the ADN in 2004 from Grand Rapids Community College, Sara started her career at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, not far from where she grew up. “I started in the surgical ICU and absolutely loved it, before going on to become a travel nurse,” says Sara. She returned from her travels to Michigan in 2009 and rejoined Spectrum, where she met Ted, who also worked there as a nursing technician.
Referred to American Sentinel University by a colleague
Within six months of being back at Spectrum, Sara knew she wanted to return to school. “I remember talking to a nurse on my floor who had been in the field for a long time,” she says. “She told me about American Sentinel and I remember thinking that if this woman was doing it, I really had no reason to put it off any longer. Although I was grandfathered in and didn’t technically need to get a BSN, I knew that for my future, not having one would hold me back one day.” Sara applied and started the BSN program in 2011.
Seeking more opportunity in his career
Ted is also from Michigan originally, and grew up thinking he would follow in his father’s footsteps to work in a field like construction or carpentry. But it was his father, who did not have a college degree, who nudged him toward higher education. “My dad had a friend who was a traveling nurse and he was always telling me that was something I should do,” says Ted. He worked for his uncle’s machinery shop for a while, but at 22, something clicked and Ted decided to become a Certified Nurse Aide at a nursing home.
Joining Spectrum Health
A friend who also worked at Spectrum Health encouraged Ted to apply to the hospital in 2009, which he did. That’s where he met Sara, who worked one floor above in the cardiac unit. Because he joined Spectrum after the hospital had become a Magnet facility, Ted had to agree to earn the BSN within seven years to continue his employment at Spectrum Health. “I heard about some other programs but none seemed as good as American Sentinel, where Sara was going.” Ted and Sara married in 2013 and Ted started the BSN program himself in 2014—just after Sara had graduated.
Life and career changes along the way
Sara graduated from American Sentinel in 2014, and a new opportunity arose: to teach. She joined Grand Rapids Community College, her ADN alma mater, as an adjunct clinical instructor. The following year, she started her MSN Nursing Education at American Sentinel.
“I absolutely love teaching, and I knew that an MSN would enable me to continue my career in it,” says Sara, who still works PRN at Spectrum part time.” By this time, Sara and Ted had one child, and Sara became pregnant with their second in 2016.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Ted says that when the couple became pregnant with their third child in 2018, life could not have been any busier. “It was definitely hectic,” he says. “Sara was working part time at the hospital and teaching at the community college, I was working full time, and both of us were taking classes and raising our kids.” In 2017, Ted joined a hospice facility, Elara Caring, which he says is something he was “born to do.” Sara graduated in 2018 with the MSN Nursing Education and secured adjunct clinical positions at Davenport University and Grand Valley State University. Today, she teaches clinicals at three colleges.
Securing their future through further education
Ted will graduate with the BSN in 2020. He’s considered continuing on for an MSN down the road, but in the meantime, he wants to be the best hospice nurse he can and continue to give back to the nursing field that has given him so much. “I never thought I would become a nurse, but I truly do feel I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life,” Ted says.
When he’s finished, it’s Sara’s turn again. “Now I want to get the DNP Educational Leadership,” says Sara. The couple adds that if they’ve learned anything these last nine years at American Sentinel, it is that now is the perfect time to reach for your dreams.
“I always tell my students the same thing and I’ll tell my kids this too one day,” says Sara. “If you want to do something in life, you might as well do it. I want to make a difference in the culture of nursing education, and I know that furthering my own education will help me do that.”
Inspired by Ted and Sara’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. An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, or infection control. 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.