Breaking Barriers: How MCN’s RN to BSN program allowed one alum to reach higher
Born and raised near Peru, Illinois, Michael Gnidovec ’13 began his journey in nursing at Illinois Valley Community College. Then, like many who graduate with a two-year associate’s degree in nursing, Gnidovec went out and got a job.
“I was working two jobs, actually. I worked full-time at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Spring Valley as a medical-surgical and pediatric nurse, and I also worked part-time as a school nurse for Peru Public Schools,” he explained. “I was lucky – in that area of Illinois, because it is small, most employers don’t require bachelor’s degrees.”
But, Gnidovec knew he wanted to do more with his nursing career, so he began looking into RN to BSN programs and exploring the possibility of getting his bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“There were a lot of programs to choose from, but ultimately, Illinois State University stood out,” he said. “You can complete Mennonite College of Nursing’s RN to BSN program in as little as one year – August to August. Other programs could be two years or more. And, even though MCN’s program is online, I liked that Illinois State was local.”
Today, MCN’s Online RN to BSN program is ranked one of the top in the country by U.S. News & World Report (2018).
It was “easy.”
A lot of people would have been intimidated by the prospect of working two jobs and going to school full-time, but Gnidovec describes it as “easy.”
“I don’t want to say it was ‘easy’ to do, because I don’t want to downplay the program. It was ‘easy’ because the faculty made it manageable,” he said. “The faculty made it possible to be a professional nurse and a full-time student. They provided aids, were available to ask questions, and gave very reasonable timeframes on homework assignments. They took the time to immerse themselves in the discussion boards and interact with their students; it really felt like you were in a classroom.”
As he progressed through the program, Gnidovec found that the things he was learning applied directly to the work he was doing at St. Margaret’s Hospital and for Peru Public Schools.
“The public health course was a really impactful experience,” said Gnidovec. “In a lot of associate’s programs, you don’t get any experience in the area of public health. It’s just an area of nursing you don’t touch, and when you take the NCLEX you just hope you pass the public health questions. In fact, a lot of public health employers will not hire nurses that only have an associate’s degree because they know they lack that exposure.”
Gnidovec explains that MCN’s program allowed him to put the work he was doing in context.
“It was a luxury to be able to go to work every day and put the things I was learning into practice,” he said. “I had so many ‘aha!’ moments at work that year, because the things we were learning in class shed light on why we were doing the things we were doing.”
Since graduation, Gnidovec went on to earn his master’s degree in nursing with a clinical nurse leader focus from Rush University. He just started St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing’s post-master’s certificate in adult gerontology clinical nurse specialist. And, he’s already looking forward to the next step.
“I have been exploring Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, and am actually thinking about coming back to Mennonite College of Nursing for their online DNP program,” he said with a smile.
“Having a bachelor’s degree made me marketable.”
Today, Gnidovec is at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN – ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals Honor Roll in 2017-2018. He took on a charge nurse role there just three months after he was hired.
“Having a bachelor’s degree made me marketable,” said Gnidovec. “The skills I learned in the RN to BSN program at Illinois State allow me to be an effective leader. I can navigate policy changes and understand the reasons behind them. I can see things from the perspective of both upper management and my peers. I appreciate evidence-based-practice.”
When asked what would be his biggest piece of advice to someone considering an RN to BSN program, Gnidovec answers, “Assess your position in life as a whole–personal, education, and professional. Be sure that the route you choose–full-time vs part-time–is the best for your personal situation.”
Faculty and students alike will admit that the toughest thing about an online program can be self-motivating. Online education can be demanding, and balancing work, life, and school can be difficult.
Gnidovec said, “Know your limitations so that you are successful. And then find the program that fits. As long as you have will and drive, it will get you through.”
“I chose nursing as my profession because of the vast array of opportunities it has allowed. I can work and interact with people from all walks of life; the young, the old, the newly born, and the dying,” he said. “I have found a career path to fulfill me not only professionally but spiritually and ethically, learning a deeper meaning of life and science that goes beyond the textbook. It is a remarkable career path that I would recommend to anyone who is passionate about helping others.”
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