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Felecia West, MSN '10, RN-BC

Felecia West

Program: MSN Health Systems Management

Through Their Eyes

"I'm still learning from my degree and building on it [every day]."

Growing up in a small town in rural Mississippi, Felecia West, MSN, RN-BC, saw many people who "weren't getting the full spectrum of care they needed and were dying at an early age." Most were uninsured and had difficulty traveling to the nearest health facility, which was many miles away.

This hit home when her father, then 64, was diagnosed with renal disease. Although he was treated by a primary care physician, West says that important diagnostic tests were not performed in time because he was uninsured. Just one month after being diagnosed with the disease, her father had complications related to renal failure. He died in 2005.

By that time, West had already realized her early ambition. In 2002, she quit her job—a scary step, she says, to leave Chevy Chase Bank where she had worked for 10 years—to get her undergraduate degree in nursing. She graduated in 2004 and got a job on a psychiatric unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Nurses in this area actually cover three units—inpatient general psychiatry, the psychiatric emergency department, and the intensive treatment unit for patients with substance abuse problems—so tasks like scheduling staff and managing budgets are especially challenging. Thus, West enrolled in the 12-credit Business of Nursing (BON) certificate program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

Once she learned that The Johns Hopkins Hospital provides tuition reimbursement, she decided to go for her master's degree in Health Systems Management, a program which is available both on-site and online. Because her BON credits transferred, she was able to complete the program by attending part-time for two years.

In the HSM program, West most enjoyed her HSM practicums, where she learned about the complexities of managing a department, a staff, and a budget, as well as effective communication strategies to resolve conflicts and help others adapt to a changing workplace.

West graduated from the HSM program in May 2010 and was promoted to the position of Nurse Educator in Nursing Administration for the Social and Professional Reality Integration for Nurse Graduates (SPRING) program. Today, she educates and advocates for nurses who have just graduated, helping them transition to their first professional role as a nurse. "Completing [the HSM program] gave me a great foundation to become a nurse educator," she says. "Our program at the hospital is really going into technology and team-based learning, [so] I'm still learning from my degree and building on it [every day]."

Learn more about the Health Systems Management program