If someone would have told Elizabeth Legarski in high school that she would one day become a nurse, she would have laughed. “I actually graduated high school and went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh immediately after to study interior design,” says Elizabeth, who grew up in central Pennsylvania. But after a few years of school, Elizabeth realized that while she is an artist at heart, the endeavor might suit her better as a hobby rather than a job.
Discovering a passion for healthcare
After a brief move to Seattle, Elizabeth returned home to Pennsylvania at the age of 21 and started an associate degree program in physical fitness at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
The experience made her realize that she had both a love of working with people and a passion for the healthcare field. Her required internship led her to a cardiac rehabilitation facility at the local hospital in Williamsport. “Many cardiac rehab patients think of their situation as a second chance at life,” she says. “I worked with many amazing nurses. Watching them make such a difference in patients’ lives was influential and opened my eyes. I loved the environment and knew that I had to go back to school to become a nurse.” Elizabeth continued her studies at Pennsylvania College of Technology and earned the Associate of Science in Nursing in 2012.
Geisinger Medical Center
After graduation, Elizabeth joined Geisinger Medical Center, which she had grown familiar with during her time growing up in the same area. She knew her goal was to work in pediatrics, and landed in the pediatric intensive care unit. She has been with Geisinger ever since.
“The thing I really love about Geisinger is that we are in essentially a rural area of central Pennsylvania yet we offer world-class healthcare to residents of this community,” Elizabeth says. “I’ve stayed at Geisinger because there is plenty of opportunity for growth and they continue to support nurses bettering themselves through education. Not every employer does that!”
For this reason, Elizabeth made the decision in 2013 to return to school for a BSN. She attended Slippery Rock University online and graduated in 2015. “The longer I was at Geisinger, the more I accepted that I would need my bachelor’s degree eventually. They are a magnet facility and I knew it would help me wherever I go in the organization. “
Shaping tomorrow’s nurses
Elizabeth loves pediatrics, but also admires the educators she has had in her own schooling. “As a teacher, you’re laying the foundational part of the journey for students to become nurses,” she says. In 2015, she started teaching at CSIU LPN Career Center as a pediatric practical nursing instructor. The next year, she joined her alma mater, Pennsylvania College of Technology, as an adjunct nursing instructor.
“We are teaching hospital at Geisinger, and we have students year around on the unit, and I always love that,” Elizabeth says. “I love showing nursing students new concepts, bringing them into the room with me, and developing them as nurses. And in teaching, I decided that there was more that I could learn. I started thinking about returning to school for an MSN Nursing Education.”
American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University
Elizabeth learned from several colleagues at Geisinger about American Sentinel and explored the MSN Nursing Education program herself. “I actually took one class at a nearby school but it wasn’t a good fit and so I decided to try American Sentinel on the recommendation of my colleagues,” she says. “From the moment I applied, I was impressed. I felt like every single class gave me a well-rounded background in nursing education. But I also felt like every professor I had brought their own diverse background to the classroom. It brought everything together for me and I learned so much during my two years.” Elizabeth graduated from American Sentinel in 2019.
Putting her education to work
Today, Elizabeth still works at the bedside in the pediatric unit at Geisinger. She has taught in the classroom setting at CSIU LPN Career Center, but left her full-time position thereto focus on motherhood. She currently works at Pennsylvania College of Technology as a clinical instructor. Elizabeth had her first child in 2015 and her second in 2019.
“The MSN empowered me in so many ways,” says Elizabeth. “I realized that I do have what it takes to pursue higher education, and I actually decided to do in the DNP Educational Leadership program at American Sentinel.” Elizabeth will begin the program when her youngest child is a little older. She’s aiming for 2022 once he goes to preschool.
Elizabeth is excited to return to American Sentinel. “I wouldn’t even look at another program because I know this school works with my life,” says Elizabeth. “American Sentinel is very adaptable to someone like me who has children and a full-time job. I had to put the time and work in, but I can fit this into my life.” One day, Elizabeth hopes to return to Penn College as a full-time faculty member, where so much of her own journey has taken place. And while she loves teaching, Elizabeth never wants to leave the bedside. “It’s important to practice what you teach so I know I’ll always continue my role at Geisinger as long as I can. Doing both would basically be a dream come true.”
Inspired by Elizabeth’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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