Beyond the RN: Furthering Nurse’s Education

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Some registered nurses view furthering their education as a means of opening further doors of opportunity, such as working in an area of particular interest, commanding a higher salary and increasing their skill set.

For registered nurse Pam Scripa, nurse manager with the Syracuse VA Medical Center, completing her RN training was only the beginning. She earned her bachelor’s in nursing.

“If you have a bachelor’s degree, it can get you into roles in various companies and roles,” she said. “The doors it opens are endless. So many industries will hire nurses to assess employees and get them into care.”

Nurses can also pursue training to work as a nurse practitioner (NP). In New York and a number of other states, NPs can see patients and operate their own practices under the supervision of a medical doctor.

“A lot of patients prefer NPs because we bring in a different perspective with our nursing background,” Scripa said.
Scripa’s not done learning. She’s looking into earning a master’s in leadership because she likes educating and encouraging nursing employees.

It can take some time to discover what nursing specialty fits. Scripa advises nurses to talk to the different nurse leaders. “Research on the web. Call different universities to find out what opportunities are offered to you and see what’s best for your personal life. Most importantly, where is your gift and passion?”

For Elizabeth Sheen, a registered nurse with University Rochester Medicine Home Care, obtaining board certification in holistic nursing and wellness coaching has given her additional tools to help patients.

“I can offer complementary tools that I’m trained in, whether breathing exercises, aromatherapy or meditation that can help them,” she said.

She has enjoyed learning about holistic nursing, which she said looks at the whole patient — body, mind, spirit and emotions — instead of tending to look only at treating disease processes. She feels confident that she could take these skills to any nursing setting, and provide any employer with more reason to hire her.

“Education can open doors in nursing,” said Mary Mahler, bachelor-trained nurse and emergency services quality coordinator for Rochester General Emergency Department. “Our current hospital president was an ED trauma nurse.”

She added that other nurses she has known have pursued careers in education, quality, leadership, research, data analysis, and finance, “both internally and corporately throughout the health system,” Mahler said.

She believes that every nursing position offers advancement opportunities with the right education.

“Education is the fuel that feeds the fire to follow our dreams and get us to the place we want to be,” Mahler said.