Frontline Nurse Scholar: Texas Psychiatric ER Nurse Begins MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Program to Further Career Goals

Frontline Nurse Scholar: Texas Psychiatric ER Nurse Begins MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Program to Further Career Goals

Linda Dennis tried to resist nursing as a career—her mother and aunts were all nurses—but it took just a few college classes in another major for her to realize she was destined to follow in her family members’ footsteps. 

“I tried to go against the grain, as teenagers do sometimes, but after I stopped going to college, I got a job as a housekeeper in a nursing home and really just fell in love with the environment,” says Linda, who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She was scared of making another mistake, however, and became a Certified Nurse Aide in 2002 and a Licensed Vocational Nurse in 2004. “That only made me more certain that I was in the right career.” In 2010, Linda earned the ADN from St. Phillips College in San Antonio.  

Southwest General Hospital

Linda’s RN career started in agency nursing, where she gained a variety of clinical experience: neonatal intensive care, psychiatric, medical-surgical and anything in between. In 2014, Southwest General offered Linda a position in the intensive care unit and she accepted. “I liked it lot,” she says. “The hospital serves a low-income population and they really need people who respect them and are willing to help educate them about medication and disease processes.” 

On to a BSN at American Sentinel

For years, Linda had thought about earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but with a child and a busy job in the ICU, the timing was never right. But when Southwest General encouraged all nurses to pursue BSN degrees, Linda explored the hospital’s educational partnerships. 

She learned about American Sentinel and was pleased right away. “I looked at several different colleges but none of them felt as convenient or comfortable as American Sentinel,” she says. “They made everything easy.” Linda started the BSN in 2016 and finished in 2017. Thereafter, she became a psychiatric intake nurse in the Emergency Room. 

Planning for the future

When Linda learned about American Sentinel starting an MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program, she was intrigued. “I love being a psychiatric nurse and working inpatient,” she says. “But with coronavirus, I see that quite a few parts of life now might stick for the long term. Furthering my education with a Nurse Practitioner program will help me no matter what.” 

On the frontlines

In July 2020, Linda started the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner. Coronavirus was definitely a motivator, she says. “Staffing is often an issue in nursing, but suddenly, we were at full capacity and it was eye opening,” she says. “In times like these, we as nurses need to be a safety net for people. It’s our role to help them get back to their lives.” 

Linda applied for the Frontline Nurse Scholarship at American Sentinel and was named a recipient in summer 2020. “I feel humbled and honored,” she says. “My daughter is 18 now, so this is allowing me to help her pay for college as well so she can concentrate on school. My husband is disabled and unable to work, so this was a great relief.”

Plans for the future

Linda is early in her MSN FNP program, but is already starting to think about how she’ll apply the degree to her career in 2022 when she graduates. “Like most things in life, I start with a plan but it evolves!” she says. “But I know one thing: I want to continue working with the psychiatric patient population. I like helping those people become successful. In my classes, I’m looking for ways to figure out how I can do that.” 

The Frontline Nurse Scholarship awarded five American Sentinel BSN alumni pursuing MSN degrees who are 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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Ashley Yerry | Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse, Albany Medical Center
Frontline Nurse Scholar: Georgia Public Health Nurse Looks to American Sentinel to Extend Her Opportunities to Serve Others