For UW Flexible Option student Ken Wagman, earning his nursing degree is all about improving care for the elderly. Ken is the director of nursing at a 28-bed skilled nursing facility in Janesville, Wis.
With more than four million people entering long-term care each year, Ken sees his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as a way to fulfill his mission of leading and supporting his 30-person nursing staff, and improving the long-term care profession as a whole.
“The long-term care industry has a shortage of nurses, so if there’s anything I can learn to keep our nursing community satisfied with their jobs and delivering their absolute best level of patient care, then I need to do it.”
Ken is earning his RN to BSN from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee via the UW Flexible Option. As leader of a facility, he has always wanted to pursue his bachelor’s degree. But his schedule simply didn’t allow it. He spent 40 hours researching universities and their nursing programs before choosing the UW Flexible Option, which allows him to progress at his own pace and on his own schedule.
“I need a lot of flexibility. As the director of nursing, I could get called in at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. That’s what I like about the UW Flexible Option: the ability to further my education at four in the morning or 11 at night, whenever it’s convenient for me. I can study when I feel ready. If I have a critical project at work, such as a long-term care survey, which takes place over several days and is vital to the facility’s success, I can take a break and focus on my work.”
Long-term care facilities provide a variety of services, including medical and personal care, to people who are unable to live independently. Caring for people with chronic diseases such as dementia, diabetes, or heart failure can be challenging. Ken hopes to make a difference in these people’s lives.
Through one of his BSN assignments, Ken has already made an important contribution to improve quality of life for long-term care patients. While enrolled in NURS 448X Mental Health Nursing Across the Care Continuum, Ken addressed a serious issue facing the long-term care industry: suicide prevention.
“Suicide in the long-term care industry is a problem that we have in America. We aren’t always given the resources on how to address it because it’s just not supposed to exist. We end up not talking about this issue and as a result, nurses aren’t given the support they need to deal with it.”
For his assignment, he wrote an evidence-based paper called “Suicide Prevention in Long-Term Care.” In it, he proposes how to best develop a facility self-assessment as a first step toward suicide prevention. Professor Rachel Henrichs, MSN, RN, gave him positive feedback and encouraged Ken to share his findings. Ken is an officer of the Region I Directors of Nursing and chose their annual conference in Fitchburg, Wis., as an opportunity to provide much-needed tools to other directors of nursing. He discussed how to develop strategies and protocol to address depression in the elderly within their facilities.
His presentation attracted 65 people including directors of nursing, long-term care pharmacists, a long-term care administrator, and regional Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services surveyors. Ken received great feedback and had a fruitful question and answer session at the conclusion of his presentation.
“What I’m learning through the UW Flexible Option isn’t just making a difference for me and for my facility but for the nursing profession in my region. As a nurse, that’s what you want–to improve the industry. That’s really what matters.”
Ken also sees a need for more nurses with BSNs in geriatrics. According to the National Institute on Aging, the world’s older population is growing at an unprecedented rate. Nearly 17 percent of the world’s population will be over age 65 by 2050.
“There are not enough nurses with bachelor’s degrees in long-term care facilities. I would like to see everyone in our field completing their BSN. Even with my 22 years of nursing experience, I am learning so much through the UW Flexible Option. We can all make a difference.”
Upon graduation next spring, driven by his desire to advance the long-term care profession, Ken plans to continue on and earn his master’s degree in nursing.
“Geriatrics is my calling. I can make a difference in my patients’ quality of life in long-term care more than I ever could in an ICU or the emergency room. And with my education, I can do more than I ever could before.”
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