It’s not unusual to find students of all ages making a radical career change when they enroll in Shenandoah University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Accelerated Second Degree (ASD) track. In just 15 months, these students, who already hold bachelor’s degrees or more in another discipline, will become registered nurses. Jamie Campos, Joey Schoenwetter and Karina Blunt are typical students in the Scholar Plaza, Loudoun cohort, where fellow students have switched to nursing from degrees in marine biology, forensic science, anthropology, religious studies, physiology, neurobiology, fine arts, business, mathematics, criminal justice and more.
Educator To Nurse
Campos, 24, earned a bachelor’s in community health education with a concentration in maternal and child care. Although she pursued employment in her chosen field, she wound up as a medical scribe at the Inova Springfield HealthPlex Emergency Department (ED) after a supportive adviser recommended it.
“I had always considered nursing, but when I came out of high school, I preferred educating more than being hands-on,” said Campos. “During my internship with Choices in Childbirth, and during an internship my senior year at the Virginia Health Department, I found my audiences would have multiple questions [for which] I had the knowledge—but not the scope of practice—to answer. This made me want to become a health care provider, allowing me to be far less limited in what I could offer.” “Also, while scribing in an ED, you get to see it all!” she said. “I became comfortable with the hustle and bustle of the ED, which made nursing much more of a reality for me. I came to admire how a well-trained nurse always stays calm, is eager to help, and can be so sharp they stay one step ahead of the doctor’s orders during a high-acuity scenario. My time as a scribe solidified that nursing was for me, and since one of my friends was in an accelerated nursing program, I knew that was a great option for me, too.” Campos chose Shenandoah University for its “amazing support” of students and for her experience during the application process, where she received abundant help, quick acceptance and a generous financial aid package.
“This was important, since I already have student debt from my first degree,” said Campos. “SU also offers a master’s program for midwifery. I am passionate about reproductive health and have dreamed of becoming a midwife, so that was a big draw. I feel it’s important to have more midwives of color and bilingual midwives.” Campos’ experience in the track is going smoothly. “The pace of the program is fast, but I’m still able to stay on top of my work, even though I commute and work part-time,” she said.
What really resonates is having professors who are also nurses. Nurses are the ultimate smart, supportive and understanding educators. My classmates all come from different walks of life, and each offers something different to our discussions. There are still many components to consider, and I have much more to learn, but I am completely set on becoming an advanced practice nurse.” —Jamie Campos
Artist to Nurse
What if an applicant’s former degree is art? No problem. Schoenwetter, 32, had a Bachelor of Fine Art in painting and printmaking, but his artistic dreams stalled when his first child was about to be born, and he joined the military to support his new family. Schoenwetter, too, experienced a touch of kismet after becoming a Navy diver. “You need to get qualified as an inside tender to treat stricken divers with the bends,” he said. “Being an inside tender involved knowing how gas is exchanged in the human body and its adverse effects. You also learn how to take a pulse, insert an IV and perform a neurological exam. “The medical side of being a diver really interested me,” he said.
On my dive team, one guy’s wife had graduated from nursing school. She would tell me about her experiences, and it got me thinking about the profession. With my active duty contract expiring, I considered becoming a nurse—a job that would cover the reasons I joined the military in the first place and then some—and the choice was a no-brainer.” —Joey Schoenwetter
Schoenwetter chose Shenandoah specifically because program staff were respectful and responded to his inquiries about nursing school promptly, and because the program had a solid reputation. “I was deployed in Oman and a Navy nurse there heard about SU and said they produce good nurses,” he said. Schoenwetter intends to return to the Navy as a nurse once he’s earned his BSN.
Marketer to Nurse
Blunt, 43, hails from the state of Washington, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international business with minors in economics and Spanish. Following her heart, she relocated to the Northern Virginia area to pursue a degree in nursing and started tackling her prerequisites. When confronted with cost of living expenses, she was forced to regroup. She began working in brand marketing and enjoyed it, even going back to school for her master’s degree in integrated marketing communications. After two decades of employment—which she admits was a rewarding time with lots of growth opportunities—she knew she still wasn’t listening to her heart and doing something that fulfilled her.
I was really struck hard by 9/11. It really made me look at my life. What was I doing? How was I contributing to the improvement of our world or the lives of others? I’ve always been drawn to the medical field. I have several family members who have worked in the medical field. I’ve watched those family members have rewarding circumstances with patients as well as fulfilling careers. I just knew it was what I wanted to do—even what I needed to do.” —Karina Blunt
Not long after 9/11, Blunt moved east and subsequently got derailed. “About a year ago, I had a long conversation with my husband, and we talked about my struggle with feeling fulfilled and passionate about my work,” she said. “I told him I didn’t want to have regrets not following through with pursuing nursing.
“We all work too many hours of our lives to not love what we do,” she said. “It was a big decision for us. We have two children ages 8 and 5. It meant way less family time for a year and a half, money out of savings, student loans — all things that can cause a significant amount of stress.” Thanks to a supportive husband, she got the green light.
Blunt choose Shenandoah for a couple of reasons. “One, it has a very cozy feel. While we are one of the largest cohorts, it’s still relatively small compared to other programs. I enjoy having one-on-one conversations with professors, and they know my name. It’s not unusual to run into them in the halls and have impromptu chats. Two, SU is highly regarded by everyone I’ve spoken to in various nursing programs including physicians, pharmacists, nurses and educators from other institutions. They all said the same thing: SU nurses are fantastic, well educated and competent. It’s a great program. Three, everyone has a genuine interest in what you are saying or need. The professors are committed to seeing you succeed. You are not a number or just a source of income. You represent them as they help you learn, grow and succeed in the workplace, and that is rewarding to them. I didn’t find that in any other programs I considered.”
Blunt loves the program. “It’s amazing to be learning something I can instantly apply and use,” she said. “It’s not like learning about astronomy when I’m never going to be an astronomer. Everything is relevant. It’s a lot of information, and takes time to become adjusted, but it’s completely doable if you want to succeed. It’s been great meeting new people from all walks of life. We have EMTs, former doctors from other countries, CNAs, and people like me with no medical background. I couldn’t ask for a more diverse and interesting group of people to learn with at school.”
Now that Blunt is following her calling, she’s not sure yet what avenue she’ll pursue. “I’m trying to leave myself open and let my clinical experience guide me,” she added. “The best part about nursing is the ability to change career paths while you are working. You can become an expert pediatrics nurse and switch to geriatrics if you desire. It’s fabulous for individuals like myself, who have a constant desire to grow and learn new things. I wouldn’t be surprised if I continued on for my master’s eventually.”