After 15 years as a foreign policy adviser with the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State, Johanna “Joey” Vazzana ’23, decided to make a major change. She went back to school to learn to be a nurse in an accelerated second degree (ABSN) program.
“I decided to get an accelerated second nursing degree because in my first undergraduate program, I majored in women’s studies with a focus on women’s health. Even though my career after my first degree took a different direction, my interest in women’s health stuck with me,” she said. “I remember being so surprised at how much room for improvement there was in health outcomes for women in the U.S., and I always thought that one day I would like to pursue a second career where that could be my focus.”
After earning not only that women’s studies bachelor’s degree, but also a master’s degree in international development, Vazzana chose Shenandoah University’s Accelerated Second Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing program offered at Shenandoah’s Loudoun County, Virginia, location for a few reasons. “Shenandoah has a great reputation for its health care degrees, so I knew I would get a top-notch education,” she said. “I live in Loudoun County, and the convenience of Scholar Plaza was a great option. Finally, I plan to go on to graduate school and Shenandoah has great options for advanced practice nursing with a tuition discount for alumni, which was a bonus!”
Shenandoah’s accelerated second degree program allows a student to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 15 months. Vazzana said that while the program may be intense, it’s also close-knit and nurturing. “Professors are accessible with generous open-door policies, and are available for questions or advice. They are personable and approachable while also highly knowledgeable,” she said, noting that the program is “doable with the right attitude and study habits.” She also recommended that anyone who decides to enroll should find a friend group for support, and “know that in the end, it is all worth it.”
For Vazzana, that means already having been hired by Inova Fairfax Hospital in its Labor and Delivery unit. “My hope is to get a year or two of clinical experience under my belt and then apply to graduate school, either in nurse midwifery or a women’s health nurse practitioner program,” she said. “Eventually, I’d like to blend my first career in international development with my nursing expertise and potentially work for an organization like a non-governmental organization, the World Health Organization, or UNICEF.”