Beyond the RN: Furthering Your Education

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Some registered nurses view furthering their education as a means of opening doors of opportunity such as working in an area of particular interest, commanding a higher salary and increasing their skill set.

Tiffany Coles, who passed her RN board exam and began nursing in 2009, quickly realized that she wanted to learn more, not just for advancing her career, but also to help her develop her ability to educate patients and other caregivers. She earned her bachelor’s and then master’s degree.

“I enjoy taking care of patients and educating them on the importance of health,” Coles said.

She wants to impress upon patients the value of taking charge of their own health to prevent health problems down the road.

Coles works as a nurse at Sisters of Charity Hospital, and also teaches at Trocaire College and UB.

She believes furthering a nurse’s education can broaden the health care roles the nurse can undertake.

“It’s amazing the amount of things you can do as a nurse,” she said. “Complete at least a bachelor of science in nursing after the RN. For most of the other opportunities, you need at least a BSN.”

The opportunities for nurses are so vast — including hands-on, administrative and educational — that some nurses may find it difficult to choose a specialty to pursue.

For these, Coles recommended shadowing other nurses and interning in different positions to discover what stokes a particular nurse’s passion. For example, she shadowed in the operating room and found she preferred her current specialty, cardiac/neurology.

“Most hospitals will allow you to explore other things,” she said. “If you don’t like it, you don’t like it.”

Some teaching hospitals will at least partially reimburse RNs who further their education, usually with stipulations about working in their health system for a specified length of time. Nurses can also pursue online degrees for some career paths so they can continue working while they learn.

Laurie Laugeman became an RN in 2008 and completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2013. She continued her education and became board certified in holistic nursing, which focuses on good self-care for nurses and whole being health for patients, not just treating their disease process.

“Holistic nursing is that opportunity to bring in modalities that have been around a long time,” Laugeman said.
That could include guided imagery, mindfulness, healing touch and aromatherapy. She feels that as a holistic health nurse, she blends science, knowledge and the “art” of compassionate nursing.

“Having a specialty practice really improves patient outcomes, patient satisfaction and it gives the nurse more satisfaction,” Laugeman said. “There’s such a focus on the nurse caring for herself and for the patient. Holistic nursing started because nurses wanted to return to why they became nurses: taking care of patients.”

Laugeman serves as chapter leader of the American Holistic Nurses Association WNY Chapter. She is looking forward to the American Holistic Nurses National Conference in Niagara Falls in June 2018.