No sooner had Kelley Harnett crossed the finish line than she was raring to start again.
The Orangeville, Ohio, native enrolled in the online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program at Youngstown State University after graduating from the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in December 2019.
“Earning a bachelor’s degree was a personal goal of mine for a long time,” she said. “Any time you want to advance within a hospital system, it seems like you need one.
“When I was getting the bachelor’s degree, I was toying with the idea of getting a master’s degree, too. I thought, ‘It’s now or never.’ I’ll be almost 51 years old when I graduate from the MSN program.”
Harnett works full time as a registered nurse (RN) in the interventional radiology unit at Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, Ohio. While her experience at Youngstown has been great, she had a health scare while enrolled in the online RN to BSN program.
“In March 2019, I was diagnosed with a rare heart tumor,” she said. “I had open-heart surgery two months later. I finished one class, had surgery and started my next class seven days later.
“Heading into open-heart surgery was harder than I thought it was going to be from an emotional standpoint. Everything is good now. I didn’t miss a beat. The professors were good and helpful. Plus, the online format made it manageable.”
The curriculum in the YSU online RN to BSN program allowed Harnett to broaden her horizons and complement her real-world experience – even while in post-surgery recovery.
“[The programs] help you think about things in a more rounded way,” she said. “You step outside of your box — especially from a community basis.
“If you are working as a hospital staff nurse like I do, you just think about the hospital. The BSN program gave me the opportunity to think about the community nursing experience.”
Harnett knew from an early age that she wanted to pursue a nursing career. In fact, she enrolled in YSU’s BSN program straight out of high school. She took a hiatus from her education before returning and graduating with a nursing diploma from Sharon Regional Medical Center in 2003.
“When I was 18 years old, I was too worried about other things, so I wasn’t super successful at school,” she said. “YSU offers a lot of benefits — it’s convenient and close to home. It was a no-brainer for me when I went back.”
Choosing to come full circle also paid dividends for Harnett once she started the online MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner program in October 2020.
“I squeaked into the master’s program, although my grades as an adult have been excellent,” she said.
Harnett is not the only Penguin in her family, however. Her husband, Steve, attended YSU, while their son, Zackary (24), is an alumnus. Their other son, Noah (21), is currently an environmental science major at YSU.
The feasibility of earning a BSN at YSU motivated Harnett to consider a master’s degree as well.
“I encourage other people to look at YSU,” she said. “The programs are doable for a working person, whether you are part time or full time.
“It’s important to me to still have a life, have time for my family and work. Doing the MSN program part time gives me everything that I need.”
Twice As Nice
After completing the online RN to BSN program, Harnett walked in the commencement ceremony.
“I encourage everyone to do so,” she said. “There are so many young people who don’t want to do it and don’t think it’s a big deal.
“My sons went and watched me. My youngest said, ‘I have to say that I was a little choked up. It’s pretty awesome.’ There is a buzz and an electricity in the room. It’s definitely palpable.”
Now that Harnett is working toward a master’s degree, she is eager to take on new challenges in her nursing career.
“I would like to be a nurse practitioner in interventional radiology doing procedures and expand on what I do now,” she said. “I place PICC lines [peripherally inserted central catheters] now, so if I could manage IV access somewhere or do procedures with a radiologist, that would be ideal. I was an X-ray technician before I became a nurse.”
Harnett has some advice for nurses who are thinking about enrolling in the online RN to BSN program at YSU.
“Time management is key,” she said. “Prior to starting the program, I thought it might overwhelm me, and it felt almost insurmountable.
“Once I got started, I realized that if you follow the syllabus and have good time management skills, you can do anything that you want to. I always tell my kids that the only person who can stop you is you.”
After such a positive experience in the online RN to BSN program, Harnett knew that she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“The day I graduated with my bachelor’s degree was one of the most empowering days of my life,” she said. “That was the day I said, ‘If I feel this good obtaining my bachelor’s degree, wait until I finish my master’s degree.'”
Learn more about YSU’s online nursing degree programs.