Long-Term Goal Becomes Reality for Alum

By Carol Best
Jan. 16, 2014
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What would make long-time Californian Karen Skiles leave a 10-year position in Stanford University’s psychiatry department to attend a small university in the middle of the country? The chance to pursue a dream of becoming a nurse and reaching that goal in just one year.

Skiles is one of 40 students who just completed an accelerated nursing degree in December at MidAmerica Nazarene University. The program she completed is particularly rigorous because it allows students with either a bachelor’s degree in another field or about three years of college, to earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing in just one year. MNU’s accelerated BSN is drawing students literally from all over the country because of its reputation and expedited schedule.

MNU’s School of Nursing is one of only about 50 in the nation to receive the coveted Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Careers In Nursing scholarship award. In fact MNU has received it for the last five years and is among only six schools to do so. The award is for students in accelerated programs and is designed to help ease the nursing shortage while getting more diverse populations into the field of nursing.

Having worked for years in education and healthcare, Skiles took a humanitarian trip to Durban, South Africa for Habitat for Humanity in 2001. The experience spurred a desire. Volunteering in the pediatric HIV/AIDS unit of a hospital there, Skiles says she felt “called” to become a nurse or in some way help women and children in underserved areas.

Karen Skiles Habitat BuildSkiles on the Habitat build that launched a dream.

 It would take a good deal of thought, planning, additional college classes, and more than 10 years before she would work out the details and enroll at MNU. Even though Skiles came to the program with impressive credentials including a B.A. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in human services and counseling from DePaul University, she still needed certain prerequisite coursework such as microbiology and anatomy and physiology. MNU accepted her credits from all the previous institutions.

“When you feel you have to do something,” Skiles says, “you just do it.”

It even meant being apart from her husband, Scott, for the duration of the MNU program since his career and their home was in San Francisco.

“Scott has been so supportive with this endeavor,” Skiles says. “He’s been able to visit almost monthly.”

Having in-laws and friends in Olathe made the short-term move easier. Now as a graduate Skiles says it was all worth it.

“The program was very demanding,” she says. “It’s for people who need to get it done. It can get you to your degree very quickly, but you have to be very motivated and self-disciplined.”

Skiles says the professors were wonderful and supportive and she made many friends among the other students.

Skiles Profs Graduation 2013Skiles (middle left) with nursing professors at nurses pinning Dec. 2013.

The next step is to pass her nursing licensure exam and find a nursing position. She’s also traveling on another humanitarian trip, this time to Haiti with Heart to Heart International, the Olathe-based relief organization, in February. The trip is another great opportunity because her long term goal is to work in healthcare with a relief agency.

“You have to leave yourself open to whatever God brings you,” Skiles states. “Don’t close yourself off.”

Great advice to anyone who thinks it’s too late to change careers or achieve their dreams.