Heather Keibler RN, BSN, CCRN, has always had a passion for learning how the human body functions and helping people in need. Nursing, she discovered, was a wonderful combination of those two passions. She recently shared with us why it was important to her
Q: Hello, Heather! We’re so glad you could join us today! Let’s begin with what you most enjoy about being a nurse.
Thank you for having me! I love nursing and all the complexities it has to offer, especially in critical care where you’re caring for patients and their families who are potentially having some of the worst days of their lives. Even if I don’t always see the direct effect, I know I’m impacting people in a positive manner. One wonderful aspect of nursing is that there are always areas to grow and learn. I am always seeking out new research, medications and treatments for patients. There is never a dull moment in this field.
Q: Which degree are you completing at Kent State College of Nursing?
I am currently completing my Master of Science in Nursing with a Clinical Nurse Specialist certification. I will graduate May 2020.
Q: What were your top three reasons for pursuing your Clinical Nurse Specialist certification?
First, I had a desire to increase my knowledge and ability to care for patients. Second, I wanted to help improve the direct care provided to patients through quality improvement and research. Third, I knew that by earning my certification, it would increase the number of job opportunities available to me.
Q: You mentioned a desire to increase your knowledge. Why was that important to you?
Acquiring my master’s degree has always been a goal I wanted to achieve. When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I thought I would work as a bedside nurse for two years and then apply to graduate school. Two years came and went, and I was unsure if becoming a nurse practitioner was the right route for me. I was working on a unit that allowed me to be part of committees, work on improvement projects, train new nurses and educate nursing students. All of these opportunities led me to realize I had a passion for improving the care delivered to patients. As a Clinical Nurse Specialist, I will have advanced practice knowledge to directly care for patients, while also working with bedside nurses and the hospital system as a whole to improve the quality of care that is delivered.
Q: What made Kent State’s Clinical Nurse Specialist program more desirable than other schools?
I wanted to go to a school that was local. Other than my clinicals, all of my classes were online. In addition to the online classes, all of Kent State University’s resources are available to me. I like knowing that my professors, career services, library, and more are all easily accessible if I needed to meet with someone in person.
Q: Why did you ultimately choose Kent State University?
Kent State had the specific certification that I wanted while other local schools did not. The program was reasonably priced, and I had co-workers who had previously gone through the NP program and they expressed to me that they felt well equipped when they graduated.
Q: What have you most enjoy about your Clinical Nurse Specialist program?
I have loved the professors I have had over the past 3 years. I was apprehensive going into a program with online classes as I tend to enjoy sitting in a class with people and being able to hold real-time conversations with the professor and my classmates. It has been amazing to see how my professors have dedicated their time and energy to make my graduate experience as enjoyable as possible. Time and time again, professors were willing to meet with me over the phone or video chat to help me work through questions about homework, review quizzes or exams and support me with any challenges I was having. They understood that schedules are complex. As a result they would meet with me in the evenings and even on the weekends if needed.
Q: How are you managing both working and being a Kent State graduate student?
I am very blessed to have a husband who is incredibly supportive and daily picks up the slack in our lives. Also, I currently work two different PRN jobs that give me more flexibility with my clinical schedule. My bosses both know that I am in grad school and they are understanding and supportive in accommodating my schedule. Sometimes that means working more weekends than normal or working odd shifts.
Q: Where are you currently working and what does your role involve?
I currently work in the Neurological ICU at the main campus of the Cleveland Clinic and I also work at Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation at Hillcrest Hospital. In the Neurological ICU I work as a bedside nurse caring for patients with life threatening neurological diseases such as ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes, seizures, tumors and meningitis. At Hillcrest, I monitor and implement exercise programs for patients with a variety of cardiac and pulmonary issues. I also help these patients understand ways to improve their health through exercise, weight loss, dietary changes and medication compliance.
Q: How are you applying the lessons you’re learning in the Clinical Nurse Specialist program to your nursing career?
My master’s program is vastly improving my knowledge of the pathophysiology of diseases and how to manage a patient’s course of care. Currently, I am not working in an advanced practice role, however, I am able to use my advanced knowledge of pharmacology and diseases processes to assist patients and families in their healthcare journey. The Clinical Nurse Specialist program has given me the tools to recognize issues in the hospital system and understand how to help implement changes on my nursing units.
Q: What advice do you have for other nurses considering getting their Clinical Nurse Specialist certification?
I recommend not impulsively choosing a master’s program because you are tired of your current job or because individuals are telling you to pursue a master’s degree. Nurses need to find an area they are passionate about and then advance their career. While many may make incredible advance practice nurses, it is so important to pursue a future degree you really desire. Graduate students sacrifice a great deal of time with friends and family, invest significant funds and deprive themselves of sleep during their graduate years. If you are not confident this is the road you want to travel down, it will make graduate school much more difficult and seemingly unrewarding. Nurses need to look at the full scope of nursing careers available and discover which area sparks a passion.
Q: What would you like to say to people considering coming back to school at Kent State University College of Nursing?
As a first-time Kent State University student, the university is an excellent choice because of its affordable in-state tuition. The nursing professors are very knowledgeable in their respective fields and have connections with surrounding hospitals for clinical experiences. Originally, I was nervous about clinical placements, but my concentration coordinator was extremely helpful in guiding me through this process.
Q: Thank you, Heather, for sharing your experiences with us today. Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t touched on already?
Getting back into the swing of school was a big transition for me. At times, it was hard not physically sitting in a classroom with other students but reaching out to my classmates and getting to know them, even if it was just via texting or group chats, was helpful. There have been a few times where we’ve been able to meet up to study or work on homework together. This has helped make the online program feel more like a traditional college experience.