About.com: What's your current job, and why did you select your particular field of nursing?
Joe Julian: I am currently employed as a hospital supervisor for Faxton-St. Lukes Healthcare in Utica, New York. Oddly enough, I wanted to be an operating room nurse when I first graduated. I was unable to get a position there because I lacked experience. Once I started in critical care, I made it my home for nearly two decades.
I accepted the challenge of becoming a hospital supervisor as I figured it would be the next logical step in my career. It has been a real eye opener as I did not know all that occurs outside the doors of the critical care unit.
About.com: How has the BSN helped you with your career?
Joe Julian: The quality of the education I received at Penn State was first class. I was taught primarily by Ph.D.s, many of whom had authored textbooks on the subjects they teach. I thoroughly enjoyed each class I took, whether it was core or elective, and found real-life relevance to applying the material to some facet of my nursing practice or personal life. I sent thank you emails to nearly every instructor at the end of each class to personally thank them for all that they had taught me.
Not once during this program did I wonder "why are they making me take this?" I cannot say that about the other bachelor's [degree] credits I took elsewhere. I enrolled in this program after being an RN for 20 years. I wondered if I'd really learn anything. I had been a critical care nurse for [about] 18 years and a hospital supervisor for three years. I'm embarrassed to say how often the "light went on," thinking "that's why we do it this way," or "this is what we're trying to achieve."
Now that I've completed the program, I realize that my associates degree was basic preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam and a basic foundation. The bachelor's degree elevates you to a more respected professional and is necessary for climbing the health care ladder in today's hospital setting. It is also a necessary launching pad for obtaining an advanced practitioner status such as nurse practitioner [or] nurse anesthetist. Once again, this degree and the accreditation it carries could open virtually any door someone wished to pursue. My employer pays a bachelor's premium to those who have earned their degree.
About.com: What advice would you give to a current RN considering a return to a program like the Penn State RN to BSN nursing degree?
Joe Julian: I was amazed at how flexible the classes were. The workload was reasonable. I found it challenging at times, but always rewarding. In most instances, class is in session when it is convenient for you. I've done homework while on vacation with my family. I've replied to posts from a Las Vegas hotel, did music and effective speech homework while deer hunting in Wyoming, and studied for a nutrition final and health assessment test from the Wilderness Lodge in Disney on my boys' spring break.
I was employed full time during my education with Penn State and had duties as a father, husband, hospital supervisor, and son of an aging parent with Alzheimer's dementia. The online format helped me achieve my professional goals while maintaining my duties at work and home.
Don't put this off. Time will pass whether you're doing this or not. Once you start, you'll be upset with yourself for any time that was wasted. During my graduation, our commencement speaker quoted Mark Twain, [and] these words were especially profound for someone over two decades into his career because they couldn't be more true: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." That quote summarizes my career and education.
While nursing and health care have been great to me, I can't help but wish I had pursued more education early on. I could have a master's degree or Ph.D. by now and be an advanced practitioner or even a Penn State Faculty member! There is definitely another chapter in my book. I plan to pursue a master's degree in the near future.