November 20, 2017 was the first interaction between Sue Zawacki RN BSN and the SNAC Nurse Education Navigator. Sue, a professional registered nurse for decades, was interested in going back to graduate school to obtain her masters degree. We discussed her goals and a variety of programs which might be a good fit. She investigated her options and decided the time was right for her to forge ahead to achieve the dream she had for years. Fast forward to August 8, 2020 : Sue graduates with her master of science in nursing leadership from the University of West Florida. GPA 4.0 !
The combination of desire and the right moment in life can lead to marvelous outcomes.
When I made the decision to go back to school my youngest son asked “ Are you going through a midlife crisis?” All three of my boys became really big supporters. Everyone was on board for her. As a clinical vice president for Tidewell Hospice, Sue soon found that both coworkers and her boss were incredibly supportive. “I found that in every single class, I could use what I was learning at work.”
“I was far from the normal traditional student, but I had thought about it for years and I finally decided to just do it. It was an amazing learning experience. You don’t realize what you don’t know till you do it. Everything I do now is different after being in a research-based program. I think differently, I write differently, and I talk differently. The impact is profound.”
“The curriculum is thorough and well organized and I appreciated the structure and deadlines of the various courses. The University of West Florida is set up for you to be successful. I feel like I’m never going to be as busy as I was during graduate school, but I learned an incredible amount and highly recommend this program to BSN RNs who are looking to go back to school. It takes a ton of work and a huge commitment but there is no doubt that everyone is working full-time and most of my cohort students are actually frontline bedside nurses.”
“I was fortunate to receive scholarships from the Charlotte Community Foundation which helped tremendously with tuition. The scholarship required that I participate in care with the Virginia B Andes Volunteer free clinic. What a humbling experience to serve the underserved. I had lived in Charlotte County for 25 years as a resident and professional nurse and yet did not understand the needs of these people. I decided to stay on as a volunteer there after completing the required hours for my scholarship.”
Sue’s future plans include publishing the work she is currently doing with a task force to implement shared governance in a Hospice setting. “Shared governance is common in Magnet hospitals but almost unheard of in Hospice, so this is an exciting opportunity to share that process with the nursing community. I am also precepting a coworker who is now in the practicum for her leadership capstone project. I just love that front line nurses are interested in advancing their degree and Tidewell Hospice is incredibly supportive.”
So what are the 2 takeaways from the Sue Zawacki success story that can be meaningful to you?
Sue: “I do believe that if you care passionately you can do it!”
NEN: The combination of desire and the right moment in life can lead to marvelous outcomes.
Contact SNAC’s Nurse Education Navigator today and get your dreams going!
“Don’t let anything stop you! Find the support you need and don’t delay the decision because you think you’re too busy. If it’s important to you, then just do it and don’t listen to the naysayers.”
In this SNAC Success Story, Dorothy Neufeld, Associate Professor of Nursing, is looking back on her experience of completing a doctorate of nursing practice from Duquesne University while simultaneously teaching full-time in the associate degree program at State College of Florida.
“It was helpful for me to be a student at the same time I was a teacher! Everything I encountered to complete my doctorate was happening to my students during the Covid crisis. It was affecting me similarly to them and those parallels have helped me to understand the difficulties for all types of students during this strange year. It was an emotionally tough year. During the daytime while I was teaching I have to be strong and supportive to my students who are very concerned about not being able to graduate on time or even at all! And then in the night time, when I was online completing my doctoral courses, I found I needed the same support from my nursing faculty.”
“Pick a good university that has a philosophy similar to yours. One of the reasons I chose Duquesne is that it allowed me to study abroad and I wanted that experience. I was able to go to Rome and other places in Italy and Sicily to compare and contrast our healthcare systems.We experienced outreach to the refugees and the homeless and elderly as well as acute care hospitals within Palermo and Rome. It’s amazing to go into a building built in the 1500s that is currently serving as an acute care hospital.”
“The most important way I am using my doctoral education as I teach now is to incorporate evidence-based practice and research into all of the content. I teach medical surgical and pediatric contact for the second year students in the associate degree nursing program at state college of Florida.”
“Nursing Faculty has had to become very creative and innovative during this COVID time of necessary alternatives for education.”
SNAC is pleased to have awarded Dorothy a Doctoral scholarship to complete her Doctoral degree. Seven local Nursing faculty have now received assistance for graduate school from SNAC funders.
Those are the first two words of advice coming from Angela Vitale PhD. Angela just graduated in August 2020 with her PhD in Nursing education from Walden University. Her four-year journey started in 2016 and she embarked on it while having two young children not yet in high school and working full-time as faculty at Florida Southwestern State College associate degree program in nursing.
This is one determined and hard-working woman!
Angela had already earned a Master of Science in Nursing education from Walden and that experience helped with her choice of university but she did look at others before making the decision. “There are only a few PhD programs in nursing education, four or five in the United States, and this one happened to fit my schedule better because of the weekend long residencies versus full week residencies.” Congruency with a work schedule and home life is one of the most important aspects in choosing a curriculum and a university..
“So many people are overwhelmed because they don’t want to think about the time needed to complete a doctoral degree and dissertation. But if you break it down into parts and work each part separately it will finally come together and you will have accomplished your goal! It was encouraging to see how many people around me were cheerleading and helping. Faculty members would volunteer to pick up work for me and of course the support of my family was essential.”
Equally essential is the financial ability to go back to school. “I am so grateful for all SNAC did, the finances were amazing. The SNAC team made me feel so supported and elevated. That energy pushes you to get it done and keep going.”
So, what did you learn about yourself during this journey Angela? “Oh my gosh I learned way more than I ever would have imagined but first and foremost I learned how capable I am of doing whatever I set my mind to. Now I encourage everyone to go back to school. We need so many prepared nursing faculty to teach the next generation of nurses. We have so much wisdom to pass on and we must build talent and engender expertise in our professional nurses.”
Angela contributed to Nursing education research by investigating The Impact of Faculty Bullying on Associate Degree Nursing Students. A topic of concern in nursing schools and health care facilities across the country, she surveyed recently graduated nurses to determine perceptions and feelings.
“The Impact of Faculty Bullying on Associate Degree Nursing Students” by Angela M. Vitale – ScholarWorks Bullying is prevalent in the profession of nursing, impacting the quality of health care and health care costs. The foundation of bullying, in the profession of nursing, may be attributed to bullying behaviors in nursing academia among nursing faculty and nursing students. Using Bandura’s social learning theory, the purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between bullying … scholarworks.waldenu.edu
Angela Vitale PhD recommends “Don’t hesitate”. Contact your SNAC nurse education navigator today and get started on considerations for your advanced nursing degree. Don’t hesitate!
“I really wish more people were aware of the services available through SNAC and other Sarasota resources like the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. These exist to help provide unbiased resources and I am so glad I got connected to them. They gave me so many options to pursue and broaden the scope of my horizons.”
Kenneth Elliott decided to enter nursing after completion of a bachelor of science in biology and extensive education in premed. The accelerated BSN program at Keiser University was a good good fit for this gentleman and he graduated in August 2018. Soon afterwards Kenneth joined Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Saint Petersburg to begin a one-year residency in pediatrics. Kenneth currently works full-time in the NICU and recently contacted SNAC’s Nurse Education Navigator to discuss potential pathways for graduate education. Kenneth had received both SNAC and CFSC scholarships to complete his nursing education.
“Talking to the nurse education navigator was huge for me. She knew what options were available locally and provided personal references to faculty and guidance counselors. That help gave me a great foundation for consideration and my final decisions. I chose NOVA’s Advance practice mental health track available in Clearwater, Florida. The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is perfect for me as it combines the ability to practice addiction and dual recovery therapy and be able to counsel children as well. I am admitted for the spring semester 2021 and expect to graduate in the fall of 2023. I’m so into this that I have already started studying the textbooks!”
“My goals included being able to go to school locally as I want to continue living in Sarasota and contributing to the community here. I plan to work in hospitals and clinics in Sarasota as a psychiatric nurse and then a nurse practitioner. I see a bright future for Advanced Practice Nurses and certainly the area of mental health practice is one that is growing exponentially. I’m very pleased with the choice of curriculum and the quality of the university.”
“I love the wide diversity of choices available within the nursing profession to expand as our needs and wants change over the years. Being able to practice in a field that is highly respected and provides a valuable service to humanity is an important aspect of the nursing profession. I feel privileged to be able to grow and change.”
Kenneth has decided to just go for it! Taking that big step into graduate school is one that may be right for you too! Contact SNAC’S Nurse Education Navigator today for personalized guidance and assistance: https://snac4fl.org/nurse-navigator/
Dr. Bonnie Hesselberg, Program Director Keiser University ABSN program with Terry Doire, RN MSN CRRN, Nursing Faculty and SNAC Doctoral Scholarship recipient.
Next opportunity is the philosophy that has led Terry Doire to RN to BSN to MSN to CRRN and now to a Nursing Faculty position at Keiser University and into her Doctorate in Nursing Practice at Nova Southeastern University. That’s a big long sentence it stretches over many years and encompasses many next opportunities seized.
Ms. Terry Doire received a 2017 SNAC Nursing Faculty Doctoral Scholarship. Read on to discover how nursing education has and will be impacted by the decisions she made to follow opportunities.
Terry learned very young to listen to her mentors. “At age 17, I ruptured my appendix with peritonitis and ended up in Mass General ICU, hospitalized for 30 days and nearly dying. I had just 2 weeks left in my first semester of nursing school so had to take an incomplete. I was trying to do my work lying in the hospital be but too sick. It was a nurse in the step-down ICU after I came out of a coma that kept me going in my career choice. She had compassion, knowledge and a positive attitude. Her bedside manner and encouragement sent me back to school in the next class. Getting my ADN in 1979 in Boston as there was a nursing shortage meant instant employment and I have never looked back.
My Mom, also a nurse, is my greatest mentor. I watched her work overseas in the mission field with limited supplies and knew I wanted to me just like her. We had the opportunity to work together in a volunteer medical mission to Santa Domingo and Haiti in 1990. Working side by side, one day in the operating room she turned to me and said,” Do you know what you are doing?” Yes Mom. She was then impressed with the knowledge I had obtained over my career.
By 2019 I will be a RN for 40 years. It is all the experiences and clinical/ managerial aspects and pitfalls and discouragements that led me to this exact point in my career and the decision to now teach. I don’t think I could have done this with the passion I have now 10 years ago. I thought I was ready, but it was not the level to which I was destined to teach. I kept going back to school and advanced my career “the long way”. My BSN in 1990 as there was an initial push for BSN’s especially in manager position: My MSN in 2012, also from St. Joseph’s, in preparation for “whatever” my life course took me to explore new career options.
As you get in your 50’s, you reflect on how you want your children to remember your job ethics and career. After a chance meeting with the Nurse Education Navigator from SNAC; she listened to what my roadblocks where and what my passions were. She just came out and said, “You need to teach!” I filled out my DNP applications that night and applied as faculty at Keiser accelerated BSN program. I am in my 3rd term for my DNP at Nova Southeastern University and teaching as full-time faculty at Keiser. With the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition scholarship, I can concentrate on my school work and work full time without the worry of how to continue. My mentor for constant encouragement for an advanced degree is now my friend who is a stroke coordinator and a brilliant research nurse – always tells me that I can do it! Finish my dream she says! What you dream you can achieve.
Teaching nursing is the future I am destined to have in my career.
My Dad always said… “Keep on” “keeping on” – so I am keeping onward.
I can mentor our future nurses on my experience over four decades and how they can also shape the future. I am a role model for my children and family so that they also can succeed in life.”
Melanie McCall RN is one of many Suncoast area nurses well into her fifties who has decided “it’s finally time to just get this thing done”. Melanie is enrolled in Grand Canyon University for her bachelor of science in nursing degree. “The first class was a huge departure and it took me some time to re-appropriate and get my schedules in balance. I have completed 4 courses and currently in community and public health. This class is right up my alley… epidemiology, disease, public health… it’s all very familiar and comfortable!! I finally gotten the groove and have straight A’s in all of my courses.”
“It seems I do some things late! I did not become a mother till the age of 42! Vastin, my son, is 17 and lives mostly with his father on a cattle ranch in Arcadia where he enjoys hunting, fishing and riding his horses. He comes to see me in Punta Gorda when he is ready to fish the canals and the harbor. “
Melanie also is a soprano soloist with local orchestras
In addition to having a baby in her forties and going back to school in her fifties, Melanie has just become a new bride! “We are in the same room every evening and he is very tolerant of looking at my back as I work on the computer doing school work. Bill is the kindest soul I’ve ever met. We both see the time spent online with Grand Canyon is an investment in our future.”
“Grand Canyon has been wonderful because they provide an advisor and mentor. That gal is phenomenal. She met with us all weekly during the first class all the way through to make sure we knew what we were doing in the cloud system, on papers, helping us with APA format. Looking over our papers to give us positive or negative feedback. She really goes all out. She wants to make sure we are successful. This has been such a positive experience. I am now thinking of becoming a nurse practitioner and I am even toying with the idea of the doctorate in nursing.”
“The SNAC nurse education navigator has been useful in providing contacts and advice for choosing a good fit for my graduate program and information about scholarships at the bachelors and doctoral level.”
Melanie has over 30 years of experience in nursing and currently practices as board certified infection control practitioner at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte. She feels that Fawcett Memorial has been particularly supportive of nurses returning to advance their professional education. The tuition assistance HCA has been a major factor in deciding to return to school. “It’s a benefit the hospital offers and if you don’t use it, you lose it! It makes sense to take full advantage.” Melanie is also applying for other scholarships throughout the Suncoast including the SNAC BSN completion scholarship.
SNAC asked Melanie what recommendations she would give to other nurses in their fifties. “Don’t ever think you can’t do it, because you can! Especially in your fifties when things are settled. But don’t put it off because the older we get the harder it is.”
Lisa Smith RN is employed at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in cancer research. Serious business.
She also models bridal fashions for Charlotte Bridal Boutique. This tall willowy blonde with a huge smile provides modeling services and for the last few years has modeled bridal wear in the Southwest Wedding Expo held in several locations throughout Charlotte & Sarasota counties. “My grandmother predicted I would be a model as a woman of courage and this is my interpretation of her prediction. Life is a lot of fun now.”
Lisa has had some horrendous health issues in the past three years. You know enough to imagine the details but suffice it to say she is lucky to be alive today. “After a bout with post-op sepsis, and several days in the intensive care, a pleural effusion, pericarditis, splenomegaly & a gastro-intestinal bleed that required an additional surgery to repair. I woke to the realization my time here was limited. After barely regaining any strength, I landed with a complete bowel obstruction. I had a complete life evaluation in a hospital bed, and decided I was heading back to school.” Lisa knows she’s one fortunate woman and intends to spend every day as if it were her last. A mature nurse who has spent over 25 years in clinical practice ranging from physician practice to ICU, ER, and trauma radiology and now cancer research, she “decided it was simply time when to get on with it.” She chose State College of Florida and will graduate in December, 2016 with her BSN.
But that’s not the only goal she has in mind. Lisa has been accepted into the University of South Florida and is applying to the BSN to DNP program with plans for enrolling in the adult acute nurse practitioner curriculum. She already has identified a potential Capstone project topic on PTSD veterans. “Improving their quality of life and decreasing veteran suicide rates through use of trained animals, (funding proposed to defund animal shelters and fund training and support) and therapeutic anaoxyltics, & continued support, so that these heroes can once again be productive members of society. I would like to write for a grant through the DVA to start the program locally and have an animal training team of experts on board, willing to jump in as needed. I will be working through local Veterans associations to collaborate my project with.” Tall beautiful blonde model yes; but no fluff head here!
So how has this total change in her life affected Lisa? She has really enjoyed the journey and her family has been very supportive. “They’re kind of used to my attending to school work and know I place a high value on education. They’re very proud of me.”
“Life is a journey and it’s about being happy every day you can are given. You must make the best of the time you have. My children inspired me to want to become an example. So much in nursing is changing; life-long learning is essential in our profession.”
“I really enjoy working in a magnet hospital at Sarasota memorial, our Magnet status is huge. Their support for graduate nursing education is essential. Sarasota Memorial Hospital, is opening a clinic in New Town, I am considering hrsa.gov for scholarships for school. The scholarship, as many do, is a process and requires post grad work at a public hospital for few years. VA hospitals also interest me. I enjoy serving those who need it most, and find it personally rewarding. I discovered through my leadership course, that my style of leadership is integrated with serving those who need it most. I also developed a Sarasota Pay it Forward initiative during my training, which again reinforces my innate drive to serve.” Lisa also volunteers at the Englewood community clinic and spends much time providing nursing services to the community.
“The nurse education navigator spent time with me and suggested several masters and doctoral programs which I investigated. The University of South Florida adult acute nurse practitioner program seems the best bet for me. With the help of my family, SNAC, Sarasota Memorial, my co-workers and those wonderful scholarship and tuition assistance dollars, I will be Lisa Smith RN, ARNP. You can do it if I can!”
So why do I want to become a Family Nurse Practitioner when I’m already in my fifties?
I grew up on a dairy farm in Kansas. Neither of my parents had gone to college, but they were determined that we should. I started my career as a pharmacy assistant in high school. I discovered my interest in nursing and then went on to become a certified nursing assistant, LPN, and finally I put myself through an associate degree program to become a registered nurse. My first love was labor and delivery but I soon transitioned to NICU. After several years of experience I was able to become certified as an ECMO specialist (heart and lung bypass) for our critically ill neonatal patients. I had been working on my prerequisites for my BSN but life began to intervene and I stepped back to part-time NICU as we began our family.
Twenty years and four sons later I decided it was time to fulfill my educational goals! I started back to State College of Florida and in December 2015 I completed my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I’m currently working in the Sarasota County mobile medical unit and enjoying this new experience. But my love of family nursing is propelling me on. So October 2016 finds me enrolled at the University of South Florida in their prestigious MSN program with the goal of becoming a family nurse practitioner. I couldn’t be happier! This is truly a dream come true.
My husband Jeff and I are blessed! Two of our sons are currently enrolled at the University of Florida in engineering. Our third son is a Senior at Riverview High IB and he is considering premed. Our youngest son is in middle school and he is looking forward to high school next year. Our sons’ see me back in school and I think it helps impress the importance of hard work, persistence and pursuing goals in life.
So why do I want to become a family nurse practitioner when I’m already in my fifties? It’s very simple. I have a lot of learning, living and caring to do. There’s a high chance that I will go on for my DNP because I truly love learning. And I’m convinced that working and doing what you love keeps your mind and body in optimal shape as you age.
This true life success story belongs to Lynne Streitmatter RN BSN. A mature and experienced nurse who decided it was time to complete the goals she set for herself many years ago. It’s a truly inspiring story. And it can be your story too. Contact the nurse education navigator today and let’s just get on with it! Do something today that your future self will thank you for tomorrow.
“Two years ago, the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition (SNAC) implemented a strategy to propel its objective to increase the number and percentage of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree nurses in the area. SNAC is following the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) blueprint for change defined in its landmark report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” The report recommends that 80% of nurses have a BSN or higher degree. This region has 33% BSNs. Nurses with higher levels of education reduce medical errors and hospital readmissions. Quite simply: with more BSNs, we have better access to better care.
SNAC’s research showed there was a need for a resource to support individuals considering a degree in nursing. SNAC created a Nursing Education Navigator (NEN) to guide, mentor, and match individuals’ needs and desires with the best programs for them considering the type of degree, accreditation, and financial assistance.
Most nurses would think Paulette Sita RN is sitting pretty! Paulette, a Case Manager Supervisor, and husband Collins, a pharmacist, both are employed at Fawcett Memorial Hospital where they even get to have lunch together. Paulette’s nursing background includes expertise in GYN ONC at Sarasota Memorial and in hospice care at Tidwell hospice prior to the last several years as a Case Manager. But this accomplished professional woman is not about to rest on her laurels. It’s back to school for her!
This mother of four says “my main thing is for the children to see that if I can do it, they can do it. It is so imperative to get a college education and anytime in life you can further yourself in whatever direction you want to take in your field. Shelby, 25, Eion, 20, Eric, 19 and Gavin, 16 were really young when I finished my first degree. I see this as providing a positive role model for them and they will realize how much work is going into it. If mom can do it, they can too!”
“I am excited and a little bit nervous. It’s been 13 years since I finished my RN and I was thinking about going back to school. Bonnie Ziai, RN MSN, Director of Education, arranged a university day at Fawcett in June and I met the SNAC Nurse Education Navigator that day. She steered me to a RN to MSN program with the case management specialty from American Sentinel University. It was like fate was speaking to me!”