Elizabeth Scala, RN, wasn't exactly looking for balance when she entered the School of Nursing's MSN/MBA program. She was hoping the MSN/MBA would give a boost to her childhood entrepreneurial dream.
"I've always wanted to own my own fill-in-the-blank," says the Carmel, NY, native who studied both nursing and psychology as an undergraduate. "People have always told me that I have a lot of leadership abilities."
She began the program while working full-time as a psychiatric nurse at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. The MSN/MBA classes had immediate professional impact. "Every day, I was able to apply what I was learning to my unit, and I received a great deal of insight from my professors," notes Scala.
But it was the mixture of the nursing and business curricula that really struck a chord. "My business classes had nothing to do with day-to-day nursing. No one in my MBA class was a nurse or even in the health field. It was exciting to learn from my peers and hear how they handle challenges [in their field]." She relished the diversity of learning that the program offered—"a great balance," she says.
Her capstone case study for the MBA program led to her new career—and newfound balance—as the first staff nurse at the Maryland Athletic Club's [MAC] Wellness Center in Baltimore's East Harbor. As a student, Scala was assigned to the MAC's Healthy Start program, which began as a physician referral program for the beginner or lapsed exerciser. Now open to anyone, the 60-day Healthy Start was looking for a staff nurse and wanted input. A self-described constant learner, Scala joined Healthy Start and began working out "to see the flaws of the program from the inside out."
Turns out, she was exactly the type of person the MAC was looking for, not only as a program participant—Scala had not exercised regularly prior to joining Healthy Start—but also as an employee. Hired after graduating in December 2009, Scala completed her first half-marathon 10 months later and has set her sights on the full 26.2 miles in 2011. She takes yoga and lifts weights three times a week. "My new commitment to exercising has helped me at work and balanced me out," she says.
It's also helping her fill in the blank of her entrepreneurial goals. She's working toward a Health and Wellness Certification to be a wellness coach and hopes to begin seeing her own clients through the MAC. Again, it's the perfect balance of her nursing skills—listening, building rapport, meeting people where they are—and her business acumen honed in the MSN/MBA program.