When Johnita Stonecipher was just out of high school, her beloved aunt—who was like a second mother to her—was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “I was the one she wanted taking care of her while she was going through treatment, and it really had an impact on me,” says Johnita, who is originally from Oklahoma and lives there to this day. “I knew that one day in my career, I wanted to give back.”
A start in office work
For a while, Johnita worked for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, but says she woke up one day and realized it wasn’t what she wanted to do. “I started nursing school at the age of 25 and graduated by 28 from a diploma program in 1996,” she says. She started her career at Northwest Medical Center in Arkansas, just across the Oklahoma border and not far from her home, as an OBGYN nurse before moving to a community hospital. From 1999 to 2009, Johnita worked for Indian Health Services, working in outpatient clinics throughout Oklahoma. Along the way, Johnita started a BSN program at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, graduating in 2006.
In 2009, Johnita desired something new in her career. “My goal of wanting to make an impact has always been in my mind, and I loved the idea of working for the VA,” she says. She joined the Fayetteville, Arkansas, Veteran Administration and has worked in several areas: quality safety and value, infection control and sterile processing services, where she was a manager. Today, Johnita works as a consult management nurse through the Office of Community Care.
Setting big goals
Recently, Johnita has set a big career goal for herself: to become an independent consultant for the Joint Commission when she retires one day from the VA. “That’s an organization that has surveyors helping with the hospital accrediting process, and I’d love to be involved in making sure hospitals are giving quality care and holding themselves to high standards,” she says. To get there, Johnita knew she would need a master’s degree.
“I started looking at programs and decided that I have experience in management, so I didn’t want to earn an MSN in management as much as something else,” Johnita says. “The infection control focus interested me a lot and that’s how I found American Sentinel.”
Battling health issues to pursue her MSN Infection Prevention and Control
Johnita started the MSN Infection Prevention and Control at American Sentinel in 2018. The program was going well when Johnita had an unexpected life tragedy: she had two strokes during June 2019. “It derailed my life to say the least,” she says. “Suddenly, I wasn’t able to do the job I loved or even drive for eight months.”
Still, Johnita never gave up on her dream of obtaining an MSN. She returned to work in fall 2019 via the VA’s Office of Community Care and has been working back to full health. She has two classes and her MSN capstone project remaining and plans to finish up her degree in 2021.
Grateful for every day
It hasn’t been easy, but Johnita remains positive and grateful. “What I’ve learned in the two years is that we must be grateful for every day,” she says. “I will finish the MSN and I am so grateful to the student success advisors who have been supportive and kind and helpful through everything. The MSN Infection Prevention and Control is an excellent program and American Sentinel is a great school. I would recommend it to anyone.”
Inspired by Johnita’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 nurse practitioner. 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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