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Nurse turns key to success with degree

Online BSN program opens doors for former candy striper

Monday November 7, 2011
Marjorie Fournier, RN
Marjorie Fournier, RN
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Some say the road to higher education can be difficult and costly, but for Marjorie Fournier, RN, CNOR, it has been wonderfully challenging and worth every penny.

Just a couple months shy of graduating from American Sentinel University's online RN-to-BSN program, Fournier already had secured an interview for a management position.

"I sent my cover letter and application in and they called me within two days and said, 'We want to interview you for this position,'" she said. "The only reason I was able to interview is [because] I'm all finished."

Nontraditional options

Fournier's first taste of nursing came at age 14 when her older sister introduced her to candy striping. She spent years working as an LPN and RN in challenging positions, but always desired more. The passion to complete her education sparked her to investigate an online nursing education that didn't require the 16-week semester coursework of a traditional university. American Sentinel fit the bill, not only for her but also for two coworkers who are completing the 10-course, 30-credit-hour program with her.

"These are strictly nursing-oriented classes," Fournier said. "It's to equip you for the next positions that are coming out, for leadership roles."

Support from her husband was key, largely because Fournier (and her coworkers) decided to fast track the education, taking two courses at a time instead of one. Fournier juggled her education and her full-time job as a service line manager for Spectrum Health Medical Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"We were in a groove, we were in the mindset of education, so we decided we'd double up our classes," she said.

She completed the coursework in 14 months, will graduate in December and even made the dean's list. On average, it takes a nurse 18 to 20 months to graduate from the program.

Fournier was attending a traditional university online before enrolling at American Sentinel. While the cost was comparable to a traditional university — $1,110 per class or $370 per credit hour not including books and supplies — taking fewer courses meant paying less tuition, and her employer offered reimbursement.

"When I was enrolled in another university, I needed to take 16 or 18 classes, and for American Sentinel I need 10," she said.


Catherine Garner, RN
'Complete' education

American Sentinel accepted Fournier's transcripts and she received 30 credit hours for holding a nurse's license.

"I learned to read people and do assessments well [on the job]," Fournier said. "But there was still that missing piece. A fabulous way to learn is to watch experts around you, but until you have the education behind you yourself, it's not complete."

The push for BSN-prepared nurses, as evidenced by Magnet hospital requirements, is not a new one. "The BSN is the ticket to staying in place," said Catherine Garner, RN, MSN, DrPH, FAAN, dean of health sciences and nursing for American Sentinel. "CNOs have now said that it's great that you have your associate, but in the complexity of this environment you need your BSN ... to be able to participate in daily levels of care."

Forty-two nurses have graduated from the American Sentinel RN-to-BSN program, and another 637 students, representing all 50 states, are enrolled.

Fournier said having a study buddy, excellent time management skills and self-direction are keys to success, as is support from family members.

"It's up to you how you progress through this education," she said.


Stefanie Dell'Aringa is a member of the editorial team.