Jessica Brunsman | Assistant Professor, Avila University & Nurse, The Children’s Mercy Hospital

Jessica Brunsman | Assistant Professor, Avila University & Nurse, The Children’s Mercy Hospital

Year of the Nurse Scholarship Recipient

“You’ll always have options,” was the advice of Jessica Brunsman’s father, who encouraged her to pursue nursing from the time she started thinking about what she’d want to be when she grew up. “My dad worked in healthcare consulting his entire career, so he was always telling my sisters and I that nurses have lots of choices,” says Jessica, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but spent her middle school years onward in Kansas City. 

Jessica went off to Arizona State University to major in nursing, but struggled initially. “I found that science was hard for me, especially in classes with 100+ students, so I switched majors to education first, then journalism,” she says. She graduated in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism, returned home to Kansas City, and started a freelance career in photography. For a steady income, she got a job as a receptionist in the neonatal intensive care unit at a local hospital. 

From nurse tech to nurse

In addition to her receptionist position, Jessica worked as a nurse tech at Children’s Mercy Hospital. “The nurses all talked me into going back to school!” she says. She started a few prerequisites, and in 2007, graduated from Saint Luke’s College of Nursing with a BSN. Jessica transitioned into a position as a nurse on a renal, neurology and rehabilitation unit at Children’s Mercy. “I took a role on the floor I’d been working on as a tech because these were the people who had supported me all the way through school,” she says. 

Jessica became a Certified Pediatric Nurse in 2009 and has maintained her certification since. Along the way, she moved to the orthopedic floor when it split from neurology/renal. She also started planning a move into nursing education—something she’d been considering—and enrolled in an MSN Nursing Education program. “A coworker of mine left Children’s Mercy to teach and invited me to come into her assessment class a few times. I loved that environment and decided that’s what I wanted to do.” 

Teaching clinicals at Avila University

While working on her MSN, Jessica taught clinicals for a few area schools, including Avila. “My practicum was developing lectures for a pediatrics course at Avila, which ended up leading to me getting a full-time position, which was perfect timing,” she says. She continues to work per diem at Children’s Mercy. “I take a lot of pride in the fact that I still do both, but I do it because I take so much of what I do at the hospital and apply it to my teaching. My students know I’m sharing current experiences.” 

On for a doctorate

Jessica has achieved every goal she’s set, but something inside of her wasn’t satisfied. “My dad worked on his doctorate when we were young, and I have aunts who hold terminal degrees in their fields,” she says. “It was never a question—I always knew I’d want to get a terminal degree. I want to show my three kids that hard work pays off and that education is lifelong.” 

In her research of doctoral programs, she learned quickly that she didn’t want to get a Ph.D. “One program kept popping up: the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Educational Leadership at American Sentinel,” she says. By spring 2019, Jessica was starting her first class. 

Year of the Nurse Scholarship

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Jessica was furloughed from Children’s Mercy. “It wasn’t my full-time job, but it had an impact on our financial situation,” she says. “My husband was in school full time but couldn’t get a job as a radiology tech because of hiring freezes. I thought maybe I should quit the DNP program to focus on family life.” 

She’d applied for the Year of the Nurse Scholarship and was thrilled to learn she was a recipient. “This scholarship is the reason I was able to keep going,” she says. “It is a big honor to have received the Year of the Nurse Scholarship in the Year of the Nurse! It’s allowed me to continue.” Jessica has since been called back to Children’s Mercy. 

Goals for the future

When she finishes the DNP in Educational Leadership in 2021, Jessica’s goal is to teach in a master’s program online. “I love teaching at the BSN level but I learned so much from wonderful mentors in my master’s program that I want to teach in one. I love what I do, and I’m so glad this program will allow me to continue to do it and to teach even more students.” 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife” and American Sentinel is celebrating by offering a Year of the Nurse Scholarship. Several scholarships are awarded per quarter in 2020. Congratulations to this quarter’s recipients. Learn more and apply here

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