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Berkshire Nurse Receives Bachelor's Degree and High Praise from Peers
“Always available; supportive to others; willing to assist fellow students with concerns or questions; works hard and always approaches tasks with a positive outlook and enthusiasm; has grown tremendously over the past two years, especially in self-confidence and public speaking; will make positive changes throughout our institution and the profession of nursing.”
So went the words that Suzanne Barenski, Ph.D., R.N., assistant director of RN studies, read aloud at the 2013 Berkshire R.N.-B.S. pinning and awards ceremony. She was reading the nominations for the award of distinction–an honor chosen by the graduating nurses–which was given to Ashlee MacDonald ’13, R.N.
Ashlee knew she wanted to be a nurse from a young age. Growing up around aunts, cousins, and a grandmother who were nurses, she pursued the profession immediately after graduating high school. She earned an associate’s in nursing from Berkshire Community College in 2006, passed the NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse, and began her nursing career at Berkshire Medical Center, working in the operating room.
Always aspiring for more, Ashlee knew an advanced practice degree was in her future. So in 2010, she applied for and was accepted to the Elms College R.N.-B.S. program in the Berkshires. The program is designed for working RNs to earn a bachelor of science in nursing–a degree that may soon be required for all RNs.
"Berkshire Health Systems encourages us to apply for the program," Ashlee said. "That certainly helped motivate me, as did the fact that they paid for all of our tuition and fees."
Not only does BHS pay for staff nurses' tuition and fees, they also ensure the nurses aren’t stretched too thin. As long as a nurse is scheduled for 40 or more hours a week, he or she is given Wednesdays off to attend a full day of classes while still being paid for the day.
Although most of the nurses work at BHS, they come from all areas of the health system–from the emergency room and operating room to patient floors and physician practices, as well as rehabilitation and the visiting nurses association–not everyone knew each other when the 2013 graduates began classes together in the spring of 2011.
"It ended up being incredibly valuable that we all came from different areas of the health system," Ashlee said. "We brought different perspectives to our courses and learned about other kinds of nursing. Now, I have 12 new friends to say hello to when I walk around the hospital."
The R.N.-B.S. program is invaluable to nurses who have limited advanced educational opportunities within Berkshire County.
Ashlee plans to enroll in a master of science in nursing (M.S.N.) program to become a nurse practitioner. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing encourages nurses to earn a doctorate, and that’s something Ashlee is also considering as long as she can stay close to home. "I have three children. I grew up here and want to stay here among familiar faces, and the hospital I love."