Morristown, N.J. (October 25, 2016) – Stephanie Gibbs, currently residing at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., with her military husband and two daughters, recently completed the accelerated RN-BSN program at CSE. Her journey to New Jersey has taken her through nine states, where she and her family settled into military housing while her husband worked or was deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait.
Her story begins in Steelville, Mo., where Stephanie grew up. In 1997, she completed her RN diploma at Saint John's School of Nursing. The following year, she and her husband Anthony were married. She found work as a nurse in the several states that followed, but once her first child arrived, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom.
"A military family doesn't always have the family support system that allows both parents to work," Stephanie explains. "Life on a base is very transient; neighbors that you have spent a year getting to know may have to move on to a different assignment."
Stephanie put her skills to work as a volunteer at the several difference bases on which she lived. She became a leader in the family readiness group (FRG) that supported families' day-to-day lives while the spouse was deployed.
"We dealt with births, deaths, and everything in between," she says. "We were also getting information to the families from the deployed troops and helped to create a support system among those who had deployed spouses."
Some years later, the family was stationed in California when Stephanie tried to go back to work as a nurse. She discovered that she had hit a wall – between her lack of current experience and the recession, she could not get hired.
Now to Kentucky, where she went to work at a call center supporting veterans, families and active duty troops in finding resources. Stephanie enjoyed being back in the workforce but longed for her life in medicine.
"This was a difficult time for me," she says. "I did a lot of self-reflection and realized that to go back to nursing, which is my passion, I needed to become confident in my nursing skills again."
While in Michigan, Stephanie took an RN refresher course at Michigan State University and even took the NCLEX exams again to make sure her skills were up to date. The whole experience also confirmed that she wanted to return to her career.
The news of an assignment to New Jersey prompted Stephanie to look at RN-BSN programs.
"I knew that having my BSN would open doors for me, but I wanted a program that was not going to be too long," she explains. "As a military family, I knew that we would be moved again, so I wanted to be able to complete a program."
CSE filled that requirement with the accelerated RN-to-BSN program that could be completed in 12 months.
She applied and was accepted into the program while she was in the process of moving to Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
"I applied to CSE, packed my family, and moved in June," she recalls. "By August, I was in the classroom. I not only learned new skills, but I learned that I have new interests in the field such as research and community health," she says. "As a result, I would like to continue towards my MSN or DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice)."
In addition to her school work, the activities of her two daughters, and working for a pediatric clinic in Parsippany, N.J., she continues to volunteer and support military families as she has done in the past.
"Moving around the country and living in different regions has been beneficial in that I have developed cultural competency and empathy for what others experience," she says. "Coming to CSE not only increased my nursing skills and knowledge, but also my confidence. These experiences have made me a better nurse."