Carol Walker’s dream was always to become a nurse, but she married at 17 and put off school initially.
“One day I woke up and realized that I had given up on that dream and I was angry with myself,” says Carol, who is originally from Mississippi. At 25 years old, she enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a medical service specialist technician. She started her education, taking a class here, a class there. For 13 years, Carol gained medical experience in various military facilities throughout the country.
Striving to become a nurse
It took Carol 10 years to complete the prerequisites needed to apply for the Airmen Education Commissioning Program, which would allow her to become a commissioned officer while completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing. At that point, she was 33 years old, getting ready to take the last prerequisite for the program. However, upon signing up for the class, she was informed by the education officer that she wouldn’t qualify for the program, because she had to be commissioned by age 35—and the board wouldn’t meet for another six months, not to mention Carol still had two years until she would finish the BSN.
“I was devastated,” Carol says. “I’d spent the prior 10 years working on my goal to become a nurse. The education officer said, ‘take your final class, because rules and regulations of the military change every day.’” Reluctantly, Carol did so and continued her career as a med technician, setting aside her BSN for the time being.
A surprise years later
Carol turned her attention to furthering her experience in medical technician services at Air Force bases around the country. But when she received an email in 2005 that the Air Force officer commissioning program had increased the age limit from 35 to 47, she was elated. Carol submitted her package and was accepted into the officer program. She started back to school in 2005, by then with 13 years of military service under her belt. In 2007—at the age of 40—she graduated with a BSN.
Medical-Surgical, Post-Anesthesia and Ambulatory Surgical
Carol threw herself into her nursing career, working in medical-surgical, the post-anesthesia care unit, and the ambulatory surgical unit—even moving up to officer-in-charge of the latter. She became a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse in 2010 and gained experience in a family health clinic and a general surgery clinic (and also as a disease manager).
A divorce after 27 years of marriage and the loss of her mother in 2015 led Carol to a dark place in life, and she knew she needed a change. In 2017, Carol was stationed in Turkey, where she became a leader of a family and women health clinic. “I realized that I needed to get things back on track,” she says. “I’d worked so very hard to get my bachelor’s degree and suddenly that didn’t mean as much to me. But I had a supervisor who encouraged me to continue improving myself. The best way I knew how to do that was to sign up for school again.”
MSN Nursing Informatics
In 2018, Carol reframed her mindset and started researching nursing informatics master’s programs. “I wanted to do something totally different and I had a nurse at my clinic who was in informatics and I really liked the sound of it,” says Carol. That same friend was enrolled in American Sentinel’s MSN Nursing Informatics program, so Carol decided to follow her lead.
Never gave up
Carol started the MSN Nursing Informatics at American Sentinel in 2018 while still stationed in Turkey, but after a few classes, she was transferred to Hurlburt field, Florida, in 2019. “I had to take a short hiatus due to the move, but once I got settled and bought a house, I started back up,” she says.
Now 52, she hopes to finish the MSN Nursing Informatics in early 2022. The achievement will have been a long time coming, but worthwhile. “My own mother couldn’t read or write, but she always cheered me on,” she says. “I hit a rut in life but I knew it wasn’t the end of life. I’m excited that I will have this MSN degree to allow me to make things easier for nurses. Technology is everything, and informatics is a great way for me to improve patient care in a different way.”
Inspired by Carol’s story? 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 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.
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