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From teacher to nurse: BW ABSN student does a career pivot and wins praise

A student in Baldwin Wallace University's Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is among the "next generation of nurses" recognized as "future leaders" in Northeast Ohio's health care profession.

The Greater Cleveland Nurses Association (GCNA) and Cleveland Magazine recently honored nurses and future nurses for the critical role they play in caring for Northeast Ohioans.

Among those recognized with the twelfth annual "Faces of Care" awards was BW ABSN student Sheila O'Connor '22, who is embarking on a career change that builds on skills honed during her first career as a music teacher.

Sheila O'Connor '22 is earning an accelerated nursing degree from BW to make the transition from music teacher to RN.

Cleveland Magazine described O'Connor's career journey this way: "After 15 years working as a music teacher, Sheila O'Connor pivoted when she realized she wanted to learn how to better care for her parents, who were both battling cancer."

The story notes that O'Connor's work with children had already developed her people skills. So, she enrolled in BW's 15-month ABSN program to master the healthcare side.

Transitioning to a new career

O'Connor noted that the BW program is preparing her to transition from one life phase to another. "I went from being in the workforce, managing a department and teaching students for the past 15 years to being a full-time student. The transition has been difficult, but it has helped to prepare me for the bigger life shift coming up, having a new career as a nurse."

O'Connor, who is on target to graduate in December, told the magazine that "nursing school has taught me to be humble as I learn new things after working in a previous career."

Varied nursing career paths

O'Connor is also excited about the autonomy and flexibility that come with a nursing career.

"As a nurse, I'll have the autonomy and trust from the institution to care for my patients effectively. I'll also have the option of pursuing many different specialties with the BSN degree," she told us.

"It is fascinating to hear stories from nurses in the field about how they've had so many different jobs using their RN license. One retired nurse told me about how she was a Life Flight nurse, an ER nurse and then a case manager."

Ultimate goals

O'Connor already has completed five clinical experiences at BW partner institutions, including rotations in Fairview Hospital's obstetrics department, the Rainbow Babies & Children's pediatric pulmonary unit and Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital.

Her ultimate goal is to find a job in pediatrics or orthopedics. "Having been a teacher, I have always loved working with kids. Orthopedics interests me because I love seeing patients improve, regain their mobility and feel accomplished after their surgeries."

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