As a high school student, Caitlin Shutz looked to the future and thought she wanted to be an occupational therapist like her dad.
“I always loved the work he did, helping children in schools, and I was so inspired by it,” says Caitlin, who moved to the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area as a toddler and has lived there all her life. But it was a mission trip during high school to a third world country that altered her plans. “I remember seeing this small clinic and realizing that healthcare was really interesting to me. I started thinking about nursing and discovered there are so many different areas of practice. There was no turning back!”
BSN at Calvin College
Caitlin went to Calvin College and earned a BSN in 2011. She started her career at Spectrum Health Hospital, where she had worked as a nurse tech in the operating room throughout college. “I knew I liked the system a lot already, and when a job popped up on the advanced heart failure unit, I was really excited to apply,” she says. She joined the hospital that fall and has been there ever since.
A variety of experiences
In the beginning of her Spectrum Health career, Caitlin worked on both the progressive care and the advanced heart failure units. In 2015, she took a position in the intensive care unit. And in 2016, she became the hospital supervisor at Spectrum Health—a part clinical, part administrative role in which she supervises the rapid response, stroke, and de-escalation response teams.
“I’ve done a lot of different things here, and I really do like the variety,” she says. “I’ve learned so much at Spectrum Health and I find it fun to challenge myself with different roles. I have an adventurous side.”
Time for an MSN
When Caitlin took the hospital supervisor position, there was a spark ignited about returning to school. “I think I would love building a team and managing a unit,” she says. “Leadership has been on my mind for a long time, and I thought to get there, I should be looking into MSN programs.”
Caitlin looked at a few MSN programs at schools that are educational partners of Spectrum and had the best first impression of American Sentinel University. “The advisors were prompt, communicative and encouraging from the start,” she says. “I kept feeling like, ‘This is the kind of place I want to be affiliated with.’” She started the MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership in fall 2018.
A program that met her goals
Caitlin felt that the MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership fit her best. “Throughout the program, my eyes have been opened even more to the possibilities that a nurse leader has,” she says. “I don’t know exactly where I want the degree to take me, but I know it will serve me well. It has helped me understand the many components of a hospital system, and given me greater awareness of how nursing fits in.” Caitlin graduated with the MSN in June 2020.
A new addition, a new perspective
The year 2020 has brought many changes to Caitlin’s life. Not only did she achieve her educational goal with the MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership, she became a mother of a baby girl, born the same month that she finished her MSN.
When the time is right, she’ll look to apply to management and leadership positions that come up, but right now, Caitlin is focused on navigating motherhood. Her greatest takeaway from her MSN program is that she has many options in her career. “I feel strong in my career right now and I like that the program made me see that I’ll take something from every role I hold,” she says. “I feel more resourceful and aware and I’m open to the possibilities.”
Inspired by Caitlin’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, infection control, or case management. 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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