Kristen McGuinness moved from New Jersey to Nevada eight years ago to find a career path, and be near family members who work in the healthcare field.
"My uncle is a surgeon and my aunt and cousin are nurses," she said. "I figured it might be wise to be around them if I ever had any medical questions. It also got me interested in nursing."
McGuinness graduated from the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at Nevada State College in May 2019. She works full time as a registered nurse at Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas and has two additional per diem jobs.
"The online program was very helpful for me because I could access my courses from anywhere," she said. "I could travel. I could spend time with family and work three jobs. I could make time on my terms and continue my education. The program had a lot of flexibility."
The primary reason McGuinness chose Nevada State College, however, was the new direction that the online RN to BSN curriculum took in 2017.
"They revamped the whole nursing program to be centered on Dr. Jean Watson's Theory of Human Caring," she said. Watson's approach emphasizes kindness, authenticity, and dignity in the patient-caregiver relationship, as well as self-care for nurses.
"I looked into the program and spoke to the former dean [Dr. Neal Rosenburg] about it prior to the change," she continued. "Once I enrolled, it was already full-fledged. It's a great theory, and I really liked the program."
The Fourth Degree
McGuinness, who grew up in Wayne, New Jersey, thought about becoming a special education teacher. She began with general education classes at the College of Southern Nevada, and went on to earn three different associate degrees there.
"I had enough credits to finish my applied science degree, so I got that," she said. "Then, I missed the deadline for the CSN nursing program. I said, 'I don't want to take a couple of semesters off of school. What else can I do?' My family encouraged me to pursue business to help make myself more marketable.
"I had most of the classes done, so I switched over and did the core classes and got that second degree in business while I was waiting to get into the nursing associate's program. Once that was done, I hopped right into nursing, and there I was with three degrees."
Shortly after McGuinness enrolled at Nevada State College, she landed her current full-time job. The online RN to BSN curriculum was applicable to her career — especially the NURS 437: Theory & Practice of Conscious Dying course taught by Pamela Call.
"Nobody wants to talk about death," she said. "Honestly, it was raw and essential, and I could relate to it so much working in hospice. It's something that needs to be talked about more.”
"I loved my professor. She was wonderful at explaining everything and really had a heart for it. It made it less gruesome and depressing and more uplifting — if you can imagine death being uplifting."
NURS 366: Nursing in the Global Environment was McGuinness' other favorite course in the program.
"We talked about different types of health disparities that occur in different parts of the world, ones that we don't think about here in the U.S.," she said. "It was eye-opening and gave me a good sense of gratitude about what we have to deal with here and the things we never have to deal with here."
More to Do and Learn
Even though McGuinness now has four college degrees under her belt, she plans to enroll in a master's degree program near the end of 2020.
"My great-grandparents emigrated here from Europe for better opportunities," she said. "My grandfather and my father always placed a big emphasis on the value of education and pushed it very strongly when I was growing up — education, education, education.
"My grandfather always said, 'They can take everything away from me, but one thing they can never take is my education.' That's always stuck with me. I did this for them, everyone before me, everyone who will come after me, and to help my patients more. I always love going to school."
McGuinness, who enjoys hiking, yoga and bicycling, hopes to eventually take her nursing practice to the opposite end of the care spectrum.
"I want to work in labor and delivery or maternal newborn with moms and babies," she said. "I am most drawn to the beginning of life and the end of life. It completes the whole life cycle."
With a bachelor's degree in hand, McGuinness believes she is on track to make her ultimate career goal a reality.
"I was looking at a position at a hospital prior to the two per diem jobs," she said. "I interviewed, and they were pleased with everything and said they wanted me to join their team. They said, 'Come back when you have your bachelor's.' This degree is important to have and will definitely help me."
Moving to Las Vegas has paid off for McGuinness, who is happy that Nevada State College was part of the journey.
"You should make sure that you research the foundation of any degree program," she said. "This program was focused on Dr. Jean Watson, so I was drawn to it. Every program is different. As long as you can resonate with the values of the program and what they're trying to teach you, you will be successful."
Learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.