VA Nurse Reflects on Difficult Road as She Nears Achievement of MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership

VA Nurse Reflects on Difficult Road as She Nears Achievement of MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership

Gerri Conway didn’t have the easiest childhood, so the native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduated high school and set her sights on one thing: making money. 

She took minimum-wage job after job to make ends meet. “I worked around the clock but it was hard to support myself,” says Gerri. When her older sister set out to become a nurse, Gerri decided she would do the same. “I have always been a nurturer, and I grew up around people who struggled with things like alcoholism and drug addiction. I never wanted to end up like that, but I always have cared for others. Nursing is in my heart, and seeing my sister become a nurse after her own difficulties made me think I should too.” 

BSN in 1998

Gerri finished the BSN at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania in 1998. She worked at a nursing home for many years and picked up a second job as a charge nurse at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Passavant Hospital. In 2010, she joined Butler Healthcare System as a Registered Nurse in the emergency room.

“I really have done a little of everything,” says Gerri. In 2015, she joined the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Health System. She stopped working as a dialysis nurse in 2015 to focus on her career at the VA. 

Encouraged to get the MSN

Along the way, several colleagues encouraged Gerri to go back to school for a master’s degree. “My boss at the VA was a student at American Sentinel University,” says Gerri. “She always would tell me ‘Gerri, if you want to get ahead, you need to go back to school too.’ She never stopped nudging me to think about more education.” That support planted a seed that continued to grow and in 2018, Gerri decided to take the plunge herself.

She chose American Sentinel because of its high recommendation and the good first impression when she first reached out for information. “I encountered phenomenal people at American Sentinel,” she says. Her journey began in fall 2018, and since then, she’s been nothing but pleased. “The school really stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that meant a lot to me. They made online discussions more feasible and were accommodating of the needs of healthcare professionals during the pandemic. American Sentinel cares about its students as people.” Gerri chose to pursue the MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership and graduated in September 2020 after two years of hard work. 

An eye on management

Since shortly before starting the MSN, Gerri has worked as an assistant nurse manager at the VA. With her master’s degree now finished, she hopes to become a nurse manager. 

“I want to be able to share with and mentor those nurses around me,” she says. “I pursued this degree because I wanted to, but I also want to see how far up the ladder I can go.” American Sentinel has been the right choice—and composed of the team of cheerleaders she needs. “The advisors and professors are dedicated, friendly and easy to work with. I have nothing but positive things to say about this experience. I’m excited where it will take me.”

Inspired by Gerri’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing educationinformatics, 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.

Have you dreamed of earning your BSNMSN or DNP? With American Sentinel, you can make that dream a reality.

Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.

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Jessica Brunsman | Assistant Professor, Avila University & Nurse, The Children’s Mercy Hospital
Texas Nurse Winds Down Career with BSN Achievement