When Denise Culver was 10 years old, she was visiting her ill grandfather in the Veterans Administration hospital when he went into cardiac arrest and died at the age of 60. While heartbreaking, the experience made a lifelong impact. “I’ll never forget how incredible the emergency room nurses were throughout all of it,” says Denise, who grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. By the time she reached college herself, she knew that nursing was her path.
An ADN and a start in neurology and critical care
Denise graduated with the associate degree of nursing from a technical college in Milwaukee in 1997 and began her career on the neurology/telemetry floor at a level one trauma center. After four years, she moved into critical care and worked as a float nurse in the intensive care unit.
Life then took Denise to Kansas, where she joined St. Joseph Medical Center’s emergency department. She loved the new environment and worked there for seven years, eventually moving on to another emergency department at a hospital in Overland Park. “I loved the fast-paced environment of the ER, and I met so many amazing people and nurses,” says Denise. To this day, she continues to work Saturdays as an emergency nurse.
Moving into management
After 13 years working nights and in the ER, Denise tried something different and became the stroke and chest pain program manager at Belton Regional Medical Center on the Missouri side of Kansas City. The CNO at Belton encouraged Denise to further her education. “She told me I would have more opportunities if I had my BSN,” says Denise. “I knew it was true and it was something I had considered before. But it was time.” American Sentinel was a new educational partner of HCA Midwest Health, the parent company of Belton Regional, and she looked into the SIMPath® program at American Sentinel University.
A great fit to help her meet her nursing career goals
Right away, Denise knew SIMPath was the way to go. “Because I have so much experience, the program really made sense and was a great opportunity for me to finish my BSN quickly,” she says. Denise started the program in June 2019. Later that summer, she had the chance to join Menorah Medical Center, where she had worked several years prior. Menorah is also an HCA facility and Denise is the neuroscience and stroke program manager.
The new job opportunity, Denise says, was an option for her because she was partway through her BSN education. “I know it helped me get the job,” she says. “I never wanted to admit it before, but I know that not having the BSN early in my career did hold me back a little. But this was the right time for me.”
A valuable experience she has applied to the workplace
Denise says when she first started the program, she was skeptical about it. “At the beginning I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I was really determined,” she says. Now that Denise has graduated—as of February 2020—she is excited about what the BSN credential will do for her career and reputation. “As a leader, I think I will be more respected having my BSN. Earning these competencies is confirming for me things I’ve been doing in my job like evidenced-based research, so it’s making my job a bit easier.”
As for what the future holds, Denise is excited. “I’m already looking at the MSN in Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership program at American Sentinel, or I might also consider the Nurse Practitioner program,” she says. “I don’t know exactly what my path will be here at Menorah, but I am really motivated and I want to be able to seize the opportunities. And more education will allow me to do that.”
Inspired by Denise’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.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.