Sit down with our Get to Know Nurse Chris Fogarty. Chris is a 2013 Graduate of Kent State’s accelerated BSN program and currently works in the intensive care unit at Mercy Medical Center in Canton, OH as a staff RN. I ask him about his shift to a career in nursing and also shared questions from current nursing students, as part of our “Ask A Nurse” portion of the podcast.
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Jamie Davis: Hi, Chris! Welcome to Nursing Notes Live. I really appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedule to sit down and chat with me.
Chris Fogarty: No problem. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Jamie: So the first question I always ask is to ask people why they wanted to become a nurse and, especially, this time around because we’re talking about nurses and second careers. Curious, what drew you to the nursing field?
Chris: Well, that’s a great question. I started my career in customer service. I worked in manufacturing, customer service environment, customer support warranty, et cetera. I think I always knew that I like working with people, but the medical aspect of nursing, working with people’s lives, it kind of scared me. But it was really the service aspect that ultimately drew me in nursing and then you realize that helping people in a genuine and very caring way was probably the biggest draw for me.
Jamie: What was your process for going back to nursing school? Did you go through an ABN program, a BSN program? Tell us a little bit about your educational background.
Chris: Sure. I went through the Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing program at Kent State University. I had a previous required Bachelor of Arts in History through a small liberal arts school. When I decided to go back to school, I knew that I wanted to pursue the bachelor’s degree because most hospitals are looking out for nurses with their bachelor-prepared degrees. So I got my pre-requisites at a community college in Kent, Ohio. I was accepted into the Accelerated BSN program, which at Kent State is about 16 months. I completed that in May 2013. I passed boards and now practicing as an RN. So it is BSN-prepared.
Jamie: What were some of the things you ran into going back to school? Sometimes that can be a challenge. I know it was for me kind of putting my life on hold and really uprooting a lot of the things I had going on to take the time out of my life that’s required for going through school.
Chris: That’s an excellent question. It started out - the process got rolling because I lost my job in 2010. I was managing a customer service department at a small manufacturing company and that job was eliminated. So I found myself - my wife and I was asking, “What’s the next step?” After looking at different options, I had a friend who had attended Akron University’s Accelerated BSN program, he said, “You should check it out.” I was hesitant but I thought, “Well, I’ll go ahead and give it a shot. At least, explore the options.” So I did some home healthcare. I really liked the service aspect like I mentioned before. I started looking from there and when I - we did literally, like you did, uprooted our family. We live in my hometown on the west side of Ohio. We moved back to my wife’s in the town of Kenton on the east side. We have five kids now but our fourth had just been born. She’s literally six days old when we made the move. We’ve been in process since, obviously, just making plans. We moved out to Canton. We sold our house. It was challenging from the fact that you do feel like you’re putting your life on hold for a couple of years. But my wife and I continued to say, “We want to make sure we’re living life while we’re doing this knowing that it’s not a wasted two years. That it’s building two years. And really as an adult learner, aside from the challenge of going back to school and saying, “I got to go back in education from a professional career,” I think it’s that understanding that I’ve given this to be fully in control of my career, but I feel like I’m pausing when really, really you are not. You are not pausing. You’re building and you’re moving that momentum into a bigger and better career I believe. So the challenge is really where, “Can I keep that momentum in life, so that family” - and not everybody has a second career, has a family somewhere straight out of college. You only have a year or two of experience with professional degree, but in any regard, you are putting it. That seems like a pause, but it’s important to keep that to realize that you’re purposefully giving your life some new momentum.
Jamie: And it doesn’t just come out of nowhere. I drew a lot from my previous experiences when I went into nursing. I found that my previous job experience and career experience really served me well when I moved into nursing school and on into nursing. What kind of things did you find that you brought from another career that you wouldn’t have necessarily thought translated into a nursing background?
Chris: Well, the biggest, I would say, was my interaction with people on the phone. Because when I was working as a direct customer service representative taking calls on the text support or a warranty, I was talking to people that I have never met before in my life, you know, 30 to 50 people a day. That ability to translate that into the medical field where I’m walking in - not 30 to 50 a day, but a new patient every day, multiple patients every day, and having that some previous constant level of I can relate or I can quickly relate to people and help them feel more at ease, I think that helped me prepare and that’s what I brought to a lot of people out there who have various backgrounds, that helped as well.
Jamie: Now I know you got some scholarship help. You were awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing scholarship. Tell us a little bit about how that program really helped you be successful in school.
Chris: Well, the first thing that you see as a scholarship recipient is the dollar sign. It was a very generous scholarship and it really helped a lot, but as I quickly learned, the RWJF New Careers in Nursing scholarship is more than just money. It gave us a lot of opportunities to grow as leaders in nursing. We would have monthly lunch-ins with nursing leaders in the area – doctors in nursing practice, nurse anesthetists. We had different programs where we mentored or we were the first mentees and then mentoring students. We get to attend different conferences. It is much more than the money. It is about growing into future nursing leaders because they really – RWJF sees that nursing profession, as it grows, needs to focus on doubling those leaders of the future. It was fantastic and continues to be a fantastic program.
Jamie: And you still are active with some of that program and work with, I guess, students at this time as a previous recipient? What are some of the things you find yourself talking with the students that you work with about?
Chris: Well, I’ll first say that what you probably are referring to is the New Careers in Nursing scholar network that I was asked to help pilot a couple years ago. I’m part of the steering committee for the scholar’s network. I’ve been to a couple of the annual summits for that, for RWJF New Careers in Nursing, and also to some regional daily conferences that we’ve had in the past year. The students that I’ve talked to are saying a lot of the same things. They’ve had experiences that they would not have, otherwise, had an exposure to nursing leaders in a national scope, not to mention the local scope, but getting to see kind of the cutting-edge of nursing, where nurses are going and the people that are involved in helping change policy and legislative policy, they’re going to help drive nurses in the future. So that’s the neat thing that I hear students say. I would never have this experience if it had not been for RWJF.
Jamie: What was the best piece of nursing advice you’ve ever received? You’re relatively a new nurse, but you’ve been working for a while now and you’ve obviously been exposed to nurses who have been leaders in different aspects of nursing, what was the piece of advice that stood out to you the most?
Chris: Well, I actually, I’ll take you back to nursing school day one. It was my very first nursing professor. He said, “I want you to keep the energy that you have today throughout your career. Your days will have ups and downs. If you keep coming back to the energy you have today as a new nursing student, you’ve made it to nursing school.” For us, it was a different process for most people but I know every nurse early in their career has this charisma and this energy. He said, “Keep that energy. On the days that it’s tough, look back and draw that energy.” For me, that’s really the best advice because nurses have ups and downs just like any other career. But it’s crucial, I believe, in the caring profession, like what we are part of, to keep that energy because the best nurses are not just the nurses who can do the job, but it’s nurses that bring that passion for patient care that really show true caring. That can’t happen without a compassionate and caring and really energetic sphere I believe. So I’ve always remember that. From day one, you just bring in this crop of 30 new second career students and you would say, “Keep this passion, this energy” and that’s what stands out most for me.
Jamie: I think that’s great advice. It’s one of those things – I’ve actually brought a similar piece of advice from before my nursing career, which was talking about following my passion and maintaining that fire within me to continue to do the things that I like to do and wanted to do. Nursing has given me unique ability to do that in so many different ways. You look forward to what’s coming up for you. Obviously, you just finished school. You’re not ready to dive back in, but what do you see for yourself in the future as you look at the rest of your nursing career, maybe five or 10 years down the road?
Chris: Sure. Well, I was just having a conversation with another nurse that we started at the same time in the intensive care unit which was my first assignment out of nursing school, and saying, “Where do we go from here?” I think I’ve known since I graduated that the next step is nurse practitioner. I had some friends who want to go on to be nurse anesthetists. Some say home nurse certification, but I think ultimately the Doctor of Nurse Practice is my probably 10-year goal. There’s a couple of different programs around here so I’m excited at the options that will take a couple of years under my current plan. I think I’m going to start back and pursue the Doctor of Nurse Practice. Because, right now, they don’t require, I’m sure you know, it’s still full master’s as a requirement, but most other medical disciplines require a doctorate degree of some sorts. I know that’s where nursing is going and that’s where I want to end up.
Jamie: Yes, I think it sounds like you got your plans laid out for you and really have some goal set. What is it about being a lifelong learner that is important to nursing? Why is it important for nurses to continue to move forward in their careers in some way even if they’re changing directions and specialties, but continuing to learn and continuing to move forward?
Chris: That’s a great question. I think on a day-to-day practice, you kind of get [unintelligible 0:12:51.9] to slow down and just get in the rut, but I think that’s actually one of the main reasons that nurses need to be continual learners is knowing that there’s always a better to do something and always a better way to deliver care to our patients. Even this year, just going for a new certification, you may not – not everybody will be a nurse practitioner or a nurse anesthetist, but remembering that if you want to be excellent, you have to find the next best thing, the better way to do it. Without that, being in a continuous learning and also contributing. We have nurses in our department, they do posters, continuing education posters. Everybody has to do their CEs. They should go above and beyond and take additional classes and learn more – get more to, so I really think it’s about the patient. How do we continue to get better and deliver better care and not get stuck in a lot of “I do the same thing today, yesterday, and the day before that. I was getting better.”
Jamie: What advice would you offer for that person out there that’s listening to this and saying, “I’m thinking about shifting careers and I’ve been looking at nursing and wondering if it’s for me.” Do you have any particular piece of advice for someone thinking in that direction?
Chris: Well, I think from my perspective, the biggest piece of advice I have is that, (A) it’s always worth doing the research and saying, “Is this the thing that’s for me? Is it something that would be a good fit for me?” But also to remember that you can’t be, with any career, nursing is no different. You can’t be overly idealistic and say, “If I make this change in my career, I’m going to have a good day, every day, the rest of my life.” But to say, “Nursing, just like every career has its challenges and if you’re opening and talk to nurses, you say, “This is what I do as a nurse.” You shadow. You maybe take a part-time job in home health or whatever. And you’ve done your research and say, “Yes, I want to go for it.” Then you make the change. You and I, both having previous careers, know that there’s a challenge no matter what you do but it’s the people who accept those challenges and say, “I want to be the best out there. I want to do my best every day.” If you can say, “Yes, that’s what I want to do,” I’d say, “Go for it.” I’m a little surprised by the people that – with the backgrounds of people and their second careers and coming to this. I know engineers, chemists, teachers that run the full gamut. Yes, if you ask yourself, “Am I willing to accept the challenges as well as the excitement of nursing?” Then I think you go for it. Pursue it.
Jamie: And you hit the nail on the head there when you talked about all the various people that are coming in to nursing. One of the things that excite me the most about that is all the various skills and things there bringing into their nursing career. I was a journalist and film major years ago and then when I shifted into healthcare and got into nursing, I never dreamed that I’d someday be a nurse journalist, but yet here I am. I think that people need to remember that there are teachers in nursing. There are engineers involved in nursing practice and in biomedical devices and things like that. There are all kinds of opportunities in the nursing space for people with all kinds of skills.
Chris: Right. You’re absolutely right. I’d looked at the IT people, “Information Technology” [siege 0:16:41.8] today, were progressing to the point now where people can access medical records online for themselves, for the children. I look at the people that came from IT that would never seeing themselves and then see them now working in nursing informatics. You’re right. There’s so many different opportunities out there. Patient care, everybody thinks of bedside nursing as what nursing is, but it’s so much broader than that. Every background has some application to the nursing field.
Jamie: As we wrap up here, just thinking about the people you’ve talked to and where you’ve come from, what you wish you knew when you got started in nursing school that you know now? What thing that you realized that you wished you had under your belt or thought about when you first started nursing school?
Chris: Well, that’s a tough question. I think if there was something I wish I had, maybe an additional year of working as an aide. That may sound funny but I worked for eight months as a nurse aide or a nurse tech locally. I thought that was tremendously helpful with just understanding the day-to-day of a hospital floor. I recommend that everybody in nursing school work as an aide if they can because you get that exposure and work as much as you can. Aside from that, there’s so many things that you get surprised at. Obviously, when you go to nursing, the most - I can’t, that’s a tough question. Everything from, I don’t know, when to actually page a doctor as a new nurse to what’s the best way to chart. I think the main thing as a person going into the nursing school is to not be afraid to ask questions. Ask as many questions as you possibly can because that’s the best time to learn and as a new nurse too, ask question, ask question, ask question because the experience is around you. It’s what going to propel you into being that veteran, being that experienced nurse. I know that’s not a specific answer but really if you’re asking questions and if you feel like you don’t know something, you are not comfortable with something or you’re surprised by something as a new nurse, ask. There’s somebody that is going to help you and can answer that and make you help you be better the next time.
Jamie: Well, Chris, I want to thank you very much for taking some time out of your busy schedule. I know you’re getting ready to head off to work here soon and so it’s great that you took some time out of your day to talk with Nursing Notes Live and with me and with our entire audience and just wanted to, again, thank you and offer our appreciation for you being a nurse and being passionate about what you do.
Chris: Well, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it and again to all those out there, the nursing profession is awesome and I’m just proud to be part of it.
Make sure you check out the entire June, 2014 issue of Nursing Notes, where we look at nursing as a second career. You can read the entire issue online at www.discovernursing.com and don’t miss the other Nursing Notes Live episode this month where I sit down with our panel of nurses including Dylan Green, author of “The Second Career Nurse” blog and a practicing ER nurse for almost two years, and Patrick Hopkins, Co-Director for the Accelerated Program for Non-Nurses and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. He’s also a Pediatric/Neonatal Advanced Practice Nurse at the Golisano Children’s Hospital. You’ll find this and other episodes of Nursing Notes Live in the podcast area on iTunes.