Stella Burchard in Park City, Utah
Stella in Park City, Utah

Stella Burchard was bound and determined to avoid a career in the healthcare field after she grew up in a family full of physicians and nurses.

“It felt like I was conditioned to go that route,” she said. “I had an altogether different profession prior to going into nursing. Somehow, I found my way back into it, and I’m glad that I did. It was one of those things where I realized, ‘You know what? I shouldn’t have fought it. It’s in my nature.’”

Burchard, who will graduate from the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program in 2018, found the inspiration to follow her true calling while she was a make-up artist in California.

“I worked in a plastic surgeon’s office where they did surgeries, as well as aesthetic procedures,” she said. “I got close with one of the nurses there. I noticed on the days there weren’t any surgeries, she was doing kind of what I was doing, more of the dermatological and aesthetic side of it.

“I asked her how she came to be where she was professionally. She told me she started out as an aesthetician, and then she went into nursing. She was able to integrate all of these experiences and her background into one field. I thought that was a great thing she was doing. I picked her brain a little bit more, and that’s when I decided to go to nursing school.”

Burchard has worked at University Medical Center in Las Vegas for a decade. She is a registered nurse in the operating room.

“I really stumbled onto surgery completely by chance,” she said. “I thought I would be an ER nurse, but I somehow got into surgery and have loved it ever since. It feels like it was meant to be.”

Back to School

Burchard, who graduated with an Associate of Nursing degree from the College of Southern Nevada in 2006, returned to school with the goal of earning a nurse practitioner master’s degree in mind. She then hopes to combine aesthetic and dermatological care into her nursing practice.

“A bachelor’s degree has always been a goal,” she said. “I intended to do it much sooner, but my responsibilities in the hospital evolved. I’m not one to really do too much all at once — I like to focus and be a master of something instead of a jack of all trades. I knew going back to school would require my absolute focus. I’m a master of what I do now, so I decided to go back. I want more autonomy in practicing.”

Although she had numerous options for schools as an online student, Nevada State College was the logical choice for Burchard.

“I’d heard very good things about it,” she said. “They have the RN to BSN program, and it’s more of a traditional college, which was really what I wanted to do. It’s convenient. You definitely have to be disciplined about it, but it’s much better than having to go to campus.”

The online format affords Burchard the convenience and flexibility to work on school whenever she has free time available.

“I have quite a pattern I’ve worked into my current schedule,” she said. “It’s a smattering throughout the day. When I first get up, I dedicate about 30 minutes or so to checking emails and such. I work on school around my lunch break and in the evening, from approximately 7 or 8:30 to 10. Depending on the courses, I spend anywhere from eight to 20 hours a week on school. ”

Stella in Dubrovnik, Croatia

New Horizons

Burchard has found that her 10 years of experience have helped guide her through the curriculum, although she continues to learn more every day.
“It’s a little easier for me to go through this RN to BSN program because I have 10 years of nursing under my belt,” she said. “I have a lot of experience to refer to, as well as on-the-job learning and growing and evolving professionally and personally.

“There are a lot of things from the program that are absolutely helpful, and then there are a lot of things that are more of a refresher. Being an aesthetician is very different from being a nurse, but a lot of it was education. What’s bizarre is that a lot of nursing is education.”

One of her favorite courses was NURS 409: Theory of Caring Science, which introduces students to Dr. Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring with an emphasis on the application of caritas to personal and professional environments.

“It’s a great way to implement the science aspect of it and the medical aspect of it, as well as caring, which is the foundation of nursing,” Burchard said.

She has also found the course NURS 408: Conceptual Bases of Nursing especially beneficial.

“It is about the different ways nurses can be leaders in the community,” Burchard said. “We have this one particular book we’re focused on called ‘From Silence to Voice.’ It’s a book that’s been around for a long time. It really poses some sort of awareness for nurses to be a voice in the community, because we have more power than we think. I mean, come on, to be the most trusted profession 15 years in a row kind of says something, so why not use that platform to our advantage?”

On a Mission

Burchard, a foodie and fitness enthusiast who enjoys the outdoors and fishing in nearby Utah and traveling with her husband, is looking forward to finishing her degree next year.

“Just getting it over and done with and receiving my diploma … it is an accomplishment,” she said.

Burchard is happy she returned to higher education to take a big step toward a master’s degree. The long-time nurse has also recommended the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program to her colleagues.

“One of the most important things going into an online RN to BSN program is being disciplined ,” she said. “That’s the main focus. The other is to let your family know how important this is to you. Otherwise, it’s hard for them to take it seriously when they see you in school, at home. You need to be able to tell them how important it is to you and that you need to set aside this time for your studies.”

Speaking of her family, how did they feel about her joining them in the healthcare field?

“They weren’t surprised,” Burchard said. “They knew it was just a matter of time.”

Learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.