Cassie Olesen | Abben Cancer Center at Spencer Hospital, Oncology Nurse

Cassie Olesen | Abben Cancer Center at Spencer Hospital, Oncology Nurse

Rural Health Scholarship Recipient

Cassie Olesen was certain about her path when she headed off to nursing school after high school. 

The Iowa native earned the Licensed Practical Nursing credential followed by an Associate Degree of Nursing at Northwest Iowa Community College and began her nursing career in a medical-surgical unit at Sentara Hospital in Virginia Beach. She returned to Iowa by way of Des Moines in 2010 and joined the internal resource team at Unity Point Hospital. In 2014, Cassie and her husband moved to the small town of Graettinger, Iowa, where her husband grew up. 

Shaped by a family experience

Cassie joined the same-day surgery unit at Spencer Hospital in 2014. But when the chance to join Spencer Hospital’s Abben Cancer Center arose in 2016, it seemed fortuitous. “My dad had leukemia while I was in nursing school,” she says. Just after having her first child and starting the position in the oncology clinic, Cassie’s sister was also diagnosed with leukemia and received a bone marrow transplant from another sister. 

Cassie’s father and sister are continuing to receive treatment. For her, treating patients with cancer is more than a job. “My passion is nursing and I’ve been lucky enough to discover that,” Cassie says. “Helping people is what I love to do. Especially since cancer impacted my family, that aspect of nursing became my passion as well.” 

A move into nurse education

With her career going well and two young children, returning to school was the last thing on Cassie’s mind. But when a nursing educator position opened up at Abben Cancer Center, she was intrigued. “We were thinking about having a third child and I’ll admit, I wasn’t super excited about the idea of going back to school,” she says. “This position seemed like a great opportunity to learn more and grow in my profession, but it required a BSN.” The position was newly created and would give Cassie a chance to shape it however she finds best. She started the job in March 2019 and within months, she was researching online BSN programs. 

Finding American Sentinel University

A friend of Cassie’s had attended American Sentinel University and highly recommended its BSN program. “I looked into the RN to BSN SIMPath® program and liked that it was online and structured perfectly for a busy mom working full time,” says Cassie of American Sentinel’s competency-based BSN program, which requires students to complete competencies based on their skills instead of classes. She enrolled in September 2019. 

A Relief and an honor

When Cassie applied for American Sentinel’s Rural Health Scholarship earlier this year, she was hopeful. “When I found out I got this scholarship, I cried with happiness,” she says. “It was an answered prayer. I have felt selfish about spending this money on something just for me, so receiving this took the weight of the world off my shoulders. I was beyond elated.” 

But Cassie adds that the scholarship was more than just financial help. “It was motivating and so flattering,” she says. “We have been getting ready for the arrival of our third child, I’m working hard, and we’re focused on making this dream of mine come true. Receiving this scholarship was an honor and a blessing.” 

A job she loves

Now pregnant with baby number three—due in June 2020—Cassie is making headway toward earning the BSN and hopes to finish in fall 2021. In her new role at Abben, she educates patients on their treatments and teaches coworkers about new theories and evidence-based advancements to keep them up-to-date on oncology nursing guidelines. “Having a bachelor’s degree opens up so many more opportunities and even though I resisted at first, it really was in the back of my mind for a long time,” she says. “Although the timing is very hectic now, I wish I’d done it years ago and didn’t want to miss this opportunity.”

Cassie hopes that she can help build inroads with oncology centers in the more populous Sioux Falls, South Dakota, just two hours away, and the renowned Mayo Clinic. “I would love to be able to bring back some of their best practices to our rural community,” she says. “In my position, I am charged with reaching out to other facilities to learn how they are succeeding and then bringing that insight here. Working in a rural community, you are often working with patients you know… your neighbors, the people in your community. I take that very seriously and I’m honored to do it to the best of my ability.” 

American Sentinel has created the Rural Health Scholarship program to help healthcare providers and patients overcome obstacles that are different than those in urban areas. Eight scholarships are awarded per year. Congratulations to this quarter’s recipients. Learn more and apply here. 

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