As a busy perioperative nurse at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., Tracey Young, MSN, RN, often was pressed for time. So, like many nurses pursuing advanced degrees, she took advantage of an online graduate nursing program to earn her MSN. She earned the degree through Aurora, Colo.-based American Sentinel University, which partners with with Geisinger.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree, and why did you decide to do it at this point in your career?
A: By going back to school, I hoped to broaden my career options and teach nursing in an academic setting. Being employed at a Magnet hospital like Geisinger, which encourages nursing education, made it an easier choice.
Q: What challenges did you overcome in achieving your MSN, and how did you overcome them?
A: During my last master’s degree course I sustained a traumatic brain injury, which was the result of a sixth concussion I suffered. I had previous concussions over a period of years from car accidents, falls and every day accidents. The concussion specialist I saw diagnosed it as a traumatic brain injury. I was scared because I knew I wanted to return to work and to finish school. Luckily, accommodations were made with a team of specialists and American Sentinel University faculty. Among them, I had the privilege to work with advisers at American Sentinel several times during the final weeks of my last class to complete my coursework.
Q: How has obtaining an MSN benefited you as a perioperative nurse? Has it advanced your knowledge and clinical skills?
A: It has given me the opportunity to gather research-based evidence, skills and best practices, and to share them with my co-workers. Geisinger is always providing the latest technology to staff and patients. By developing my critical thinking skills and knowledge, I have been able to stay abreast of ever-changing technology and changes in procedures, treatments and surgeries. During my research class at American Sentinel, I wrote a paper on double-gloving in the OR. I learned so much throughout the process and the class, and was able to share the results with my co-workers.
Q: What benefits do you see in the future from obtaining your MSN?
A: I feel I will be able to connect with a larger group of nurses and collaborate with them. For example, I am on the national conference planning committee for the Society of Urological Nurses Association. I feel that being an MSN student and graduate provided me with the opportunity to become involved with that organization. The MSN increased my knowledge and skills enabling me to practice more independently. Specifically, it has helped me to better understand various research tools and provided me with more knowledge and greater understanding of the periop specialty.
Q: Now that you have your MSN, are you planning to leave the clinical setting?
A: I have started researching my options for online teaching, through the suggestion of my concussion specialist. He believes working at a Level 1 trauma center and facing life-or-death situations regularly will be too much neuro-stimuli for me so that is why online teaching may be a more viable option and one that I know I will enjoy.
Q: What advice would you have for fellow perioperative nurses like you considering pursuing an MSN?
A: First, I would say it’s worth it because you will have this amazing sense of accomplishment. Second, advanced education can provide greater job opportunities. And to any nurses who are scared, nervous or worried they can’t do it, I would advise them to believe in themselves. I had those feelings, especially after my traumatic brain injury, but with hard work, determination and a good support system, I was able to get my degree and have accomplished something important for myself, my hospital and my profession. You can do it, too.