Frontline Nurse Scholar: ER Nurse on Front Lines Motivated by Scholarship

Frontline Nurse Scholar: ER Nurse on Front Lines Motivated by Scholarship

When Kristy McKay was a teen, she knew that she wanted to become a nurse. But a cross-country move during high school from Wisconsin to Florida encouraged her to think carefully before jumping into a nursing program right after graduation.

“I took a break after high school to figure some things out and then ended up going back to school, becoming a mother along the way,” says Kristy. After a lot of hard work, Kristy earned an Associate of Arts in 2010 from Pasco Hernando Community College and an ADN in 2013 from Southeastern College. She made the Dean’s List and received an award at commencement. 

A start in medical-surgical

Kristy stated her nursing career at Bayfront Health Brooksville Hospital in Florida as a charge nurse on a medical-surgical unit and soon was asked to step into a clinical coordinator position. When the director was promoted, Kristy filled in as interim director for a year. She transitioned into the emergency room at Bayfront Health Brooksville in 2017. She has been there ever since. 

“I love the unknown element of the ER,” says Kristy. “A patient comes in and you have to think critically about how you can treat them, and it involves a lot of teamwork as well.” 

Considering the BSN

Her career was going well, but Kristy got the itch to return to school several years ago. “In probably about 2017, I started thinking about the fact that I should get a BSN, not only to secure my position where I work today, but to maximize my potential in my field of interest,” she says. Once the spark was ignited, Kristy knew that she was unlikely to be satisfied with only a BSN. “I started looking for schools where I could get the BSN and the MSN one after the other.” 

That research led Kristy to American Sentinel University. “Some local nurses who I work with talked about American Sentinel, and when I learned about the SIMPath® program where I could earn credit for competencies rather than classes, I was very excited,” she says. “The price, the online format, the fact that I could do school on my own timeline, by showing what I know—it was all perfect.” Kristy started the program in 2019. She took five courses a semester and was able to finish by January 2020. 

On to the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner

Now Kristy has started the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner. “I love bedside care and working with patients, so the Nurse Practitioner fits me best,” she says. Although starting the program during a pandemic was daunting—she took her first class in April 2020—Kristy says American Sentinel was accommodating in every way. “It was definitely a concern of mine, because I’m a frontline nurse that has been in the thick of it with COVID-19, but American Sentinel assured us that they know that many students are dealing with a lot right now. I’m learning a lot, but the expectations of students are reasonable.” 

Frontline Nurse Scholarship

When the Frontline Nurse Scholarship was announced in the spring, Kristy applied immediately. “When I learned I got it, I was honestly so happy and proud,” she says. “It gave me the boost I needed. I’ve been thinking a lot about being a good role model for my daughter, who is 10. I want to show her that no matter what you have on your plate, earning a higher degree can be done.” 

Goals for the future

Kristy’s heart is still in the ER, but she hopes that becoming a Nurse Practitioner will open her mind to new possibilities—and open doors. No matter what, she wants to stay close to the bedside. One day, she hopes to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice. “My priority has and always will be patient care,” she says. “I’m doing this to be the best I can be and have opportunities open to me.” 

The Frontline Nurse Scholarship awarded five American Sentinel BSN alumni working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to support patients and their communities. It was a one-time, not recurring, scholarship.

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