Kim Sikorski's high school guidance counselor had the right idea in suggesting that she pursue a career in nursing. However, Sikorski didn't exactly get the full scope of the career field until she was in it.
"The guidance counselor said, 'You are good at math, and I think you would do really well in this profession.' Little did I know that while math is important to the work that I do, it's only a tiny fraction of what my profession encompasses. Nursing is so much more than calculations," Sikorski said. "I started my Associate Degree in Nursing program right out of high school, and I have never looked back or doubted my decision."
Sikorski is a clinical documentation specialist at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon, Illinois, where she has worked for more than 15 years.
Good call, high school guidance counselor.
Thirteen years after Sikorski completed her ADN, she graduated from Eastern Illinois University's online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Sikorski is currently enrolled in a family nurse practitioner master's degree program at Indiana State University.
"My favorite aspect of nursing is the opportunity to build relationships with people and help them in their time of need," Sikorski said. "Nursing is an intimate profession, where you come into someone's life -- usually at a vulnerable time -- and immediately step in and do what they can't.
"You assist them in any way that you possibly can, advocate for them and educate them, to ensure that all of their needs are met. Medications or surgery might be what ultimately cures their condition, but care and compassion is what really heals."
In 2002 Sikorski completed her ADN at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois. Sikorski returned to school because she moved into a management role that required a bachelor's degree.
Dr. Renee Kidd-Marshall, EIU's RN to BSN program coordinator, visited the hospital where Sikorski works and provided program information to the nurses. However, Sikorski was already plenty familiar with EIU because she worked full-time for the university from 2008 to 2011 and again part-time about six months before she enrolled. The affordability of tuition was also a big selling point for Sikorski to become a Panther.
"Nursing is a profession that requires a commitment to lifelong learning in order to be successful," Sikorski said. "Since my ultimate goal is to become a family nurse practitioner, I wanted to earn my BSN first."
Although she lives close to the EIU campus, the online format was the key factor in Sikorski's ability to earn a BSN. She devoted between nine and 15 hours to schoolwork each week, taking advantage of the asynchronous format to work on school any time, day or night.
"I work full-time, I am married and I have three children," she said. "I needed flexibility in order to accomplish this goal. The online format worked out wonderfully, once they removed the requirement that we had to actually 'attend' the lecture.
"Initially, we were required to attend online at a certain time. Then, they gave us the option to either attend online or listen to the recorded lecture."
Sikorski enjoyed the advanced pathophysiology/pharmacology courses most because they applied to real-life patient situations, so she could take advantage of that knowledge immediately.
"The program was very valuable, and I learned a great deal," she said. "It was challenging but rewarding. It prepared me for the MSN program I am currently enrolled in."
The return to higher education has been a rewarding experience for Sikorski in more ways than one.
Her husband, Frank, has an associate degree and plans to pursue a bachelor's degree once she finishes the FNP program. Her sister, Chasity Christopulos, has a bachelor's degree in actuarial science and added a BSN in 2016.
Sikorski continues to enjoy the support and encouragement she received from family and friends throughout her return to college. She hopes her emphasis on education at home will rub off on her three sons, ages 14, 10 and 1.
"I absolutely attended graduation at Eastern Illinois University," she said. "I wanted my kids to see that all the hard work I put into the years of working on this degree was a really big deal. I wanted them to see how much the college celebrated this achievement for all. I feel connected to EIU."
In addition to increasing Sikorski's nursing acumen and helping her meet a job requirement, the EIU online RN to BSN program sparked her interest in staying in school. Sikorski recommends that any nurse considering a bachelor's degree take advantage of EIU's online program.
"Go for it," she said. "You will never regret making the commitment to further your nursing education. EIU is a great program with a personal feel."
Learn more about the EIU online RN to BSN program.
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