When Sarah Shiel was 19 years old, her ruptured appendix led her toward a career in nursing.
“I had a horrible experience with my nurses,” she said. “They were basically like Nurse Ratched [from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest]. I made a pact with myself that, ‘I am going to do this and be the opposite.'”
Shiel is now a nurse educator at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, and is enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner online program at UTA.
“My role is a master’s-degree-preferred position, so it would have been imperative for me to obtain one in the future” she said. “I am very clinical, so I miss the clinical aspect of educating patients and taking care of patients. I chose the FNP because I want to have the option in the future to do patient care again.”
In addition to fulfilling her primary job responsibilities, Shiel serves as a bedside educator for all of the nurses and patient care techs in two med-surg units. She enrolled in the UTA online MSN – FNP program after a school representative came to her hospital and told her about it.
“She gave me the information and pretty much waved it in my face and said, ‘Hey, listen, we’ve got a good deal here. You can still work and go to school,'” Shiel said. “The price did it for me. I did a little research on different schools that were double the tuition that UTA offers. “
Spirit of ’75
Once Shiel, a Ponte Vedra native, knew what she wanted to do for a career, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at University of North Florida in 2011.
“I did bedside while I was doing nurse education for two years,” she said. “I had two jobs. I was a PRN in both roles, so I worked full time in education and picked up on the floor. I always did med-surg and floated between three hospitals in Jacksonville. Wherever they wanted to send me, I went. I was a float nurse.”
Shiel knew an online format was the only way she could earn a master’s degree while maintaining her busy work schedule. She enrolled at UTA in July 2019 and is finding her groove in the online program.
“The program is good and very convenient,” she said. “I did a couple of online classes in undergrad, but I am still trying to get used to the online learning atmosphere. I spend probably 15-25 hours a week on school.
It’s been a whirlwind for Shiel over the last year after she got married in November 2018. She and her husband, Kevin, recently bought a house and are planning to start a family.
“That’s another reason why I chose the program – because of the flexibility,” she said. “My family and friends are excited. My husband is keeping me sane. He has his doctorate in physical therapy. He said, ‘You have to do this. There’s no question.'”
Jack of All Trades
Although Shiel enjoys working on school asynchronously with the online format, the biggest adjustment involves being her own boss.
“The online learning platform is very much [about] teaching yourself,” she said. “I am not used to not having somebody standing in front of me teaching me everything I need to know. You have to be aware and ready for the aspect of being self-motivated.”
Now that Shiel seemingly has everything in place in her life, she is excited to continue enhancing her nursing practice with the knowledge gained from the online MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner program and seeing where it takes her career.
“I absolutely believe this degree will create career opportunities for me in the future,” she said. “The program has been very helpful, so far. I am ready for the clinical courses.”
Even though Shiel is in the early stages of the program, she hopes she can make the trip to Texas to receive her master’s degree in person at commencement.
“I have considered it,” she said. “It really depends on what’s going on in my life at that point. I would love to make a trip there.”
Shiel, who lives on the beach and enjoys boating, paddle boarding and kayaking, continues to be motivated each day by being the opposite of Nurse Ratched and teaching other nurses to strive for the same goal.
“I am enjoying what I am doing for now because I really enjoy educating other nurses,” she said. “I miss patient care but not enough to be a floor nurse. It gets insane on that side.”
See what she did there?
Learn more about the UTA online MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner program.