Empowered to Follow Her Heart

Bethel’s post-baccalaureate nursing staff and faculty helped recent graduate Kristen Kirk CAPS’22 land her dream job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

February 28, 2023 | 9:30 a.m.

Kristen Kirk CAPS'22 (right) with two fellow post-baccalaureate nursing graduates on their first day as employees at the VA.

Kristen Kirk CAPS'22 (right) with two fellow post-baccalaureate nursing graduates on their first day as employees at the VA.

“I want to work with veterans!” said Kristen Kirk CAPS’22 during her admission interview for Bethel’s post-baccalaureate nursing (BSN) program. That dream has sustained her through a career change and 15 months of nursing school—leading to its ultimate fulfillment in her current role as a resident nurse for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “My favorite part [of Bethel’s post-baccalaureate nursing program] was that I really felt heard and supported in my decision to follow my heart toward the VA,” says Kirk. “The faculty recognized my heart and supported me on my journey to accomplish the goal I had set.” 

By the time Kirk recognized she had a passion for the military, she was in her late 30s and had missed the opportunity to actively serve in such a way. She initially graduated with undergraduate degrees in psychology and elementary education, and she spent 21 years in the mental health field before realizing she wanted to serve veterans specifically. The best path forward was nursing school. “My love and passion for nursing is driven by my desire to help those who served,” Kirk says. “I have always been interested in healthcare. I also believed my education and experience working within the mental health field could transfer into building rapport and supporting my patients through difficult times.”

After months of prayer and careful consideration, Kirk decided to apply to Bethel. She had heard about the quality of a Bethel education from her colleagues at M Health, and she was drawn to the university’s post-baccalaureate nursing program. Designed for those who have already received an undergraduate degree, the program prepares students for RN licensure and entry-level professional nursing positions in as few as 15 months. Kirk appreciated the opportunity to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and she was impressed by Bethel’s nursing lab and active simulation experiences. “The fact that the program was specifically created for post-baccalaureate students cemented my decision,” Kirk says.

Her time in the program proved rather priceless as she spent 15 busy months learning, studying, and bonding with her classmates, who she says became lifelong friends. The coursework facilitated opportunities to think critically about the material and helped students imagine how they would respond in different situations. The Bethel staff and faculty also prepared Kirk to interact with her future patients as individual people with unique concerns, needs, and personalities, which would in turn help patients follow through with their treatment plans.

Beyond the coursework, the faculty and staff were ultimately what set Bethel’s post-baccalaureate nursing program apart, according to Kirk. “The Bethel faculty and staff were instrumental in preparing me for my nursing career,” she says. “They demonstrate a heart for service work within the nursing field and really convey the importance of understanding each patient and their situation as unique experiences.” They were also dedicated to helping Kirk pursue her dreams. She had hoped to do her capstone experience with the VA, though that was not one of the program’s typical placements, and thanks to the efforts of Program Director Kristi Gustafson and the placement team, Kirk was able to take those first steps with the VA.

“I reminded the faculty of my request on multiple occasions, and low and behold, Bethel secured my capstone experience at the VA hospital in Minneapolis!” Kirk says. “This was definitely the ‘in’ I needed at the VA and led to my accepting a job on the unit that I completed my student experience on.”

Change your career. Get your nursing degree.

Through Bethel’s post-baccalaureate nursing program, you’ll learn how to provide meaningful care that promotes the health of people from diverse families, communities, and systems. Courses are offered in a blended format, meaning you’ll experience a mix of online and in-person learning. Upon graduation, you’ll be eligible to apply for the NCLEX® licensure exam for registered nurses. 

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