Meet the Program Chair: RN to BSN

With 20 years of experience in nursing and nursing education, Jennifer Verstreken joined Bay State College as the chair and full-time faculty of our Nursing RN to BSN program. We talked with her about the healthcare industry, her career, and what she hopes to teach students.

Bay State College: What do you do outside of your work at Bay State College?

JV: I am an actively practicing Registered Nurse at Brigham and Women's Hospital in the level I emergency department. I also volunteer on annual medical mission trips, am pursuing my Family Nursing Practitioner Certificate, and am an avid home renovation enthusiast.

Bay State College: What accomplishments are you particularly proud of?

JV: I am mot proud of the students I have been able to mentor, either as a faculty member, clinical instructor, capstone preceptor or colleague-mentor. To see nurses continuing their education, become movers and shakers in the profession, exhibiting compassion at the bedside reinforces why I do what I do.

Bay State College: Was there a moment in your youth when you knew this would be where you landed as an adult?

JV: My mom is a retired educator and my father is a retired health professional. I always leaned towards the medical/scientific side of things. But, early in my career, 2 years in, I began teaching clinical for a practical nurse program. I knew then what my mom always knew; I would be an educator. Maintaining clinical competence is the foundation of my teaching, which is why I continue to practice at the bedside.

Bay State College: Working in this industry, what have you learned about your strengths and your weaknesses?

JV: I have learned never stop learning. Once a nurse becomes static in their practice, their expertise fades. I arrive at both of my jobs with an open mind and a willingness to be taught by others...On the flip side, I recognize that I am extremely hard on myself and set sometimes unrealistic goals. I lean on others to ground me in those moments. 

Bay State College: Did you have any mentors or people who deeply influence who you are and what you're committed to in your work and life?

JV: So, so many. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. I have been fortunate to be mentored by Chief Nursing Officers, Nurse Managers, Nurse Directors, nurse colleagues and even students. I am inspired every day by amazing nurses I work with at Bay State College. Not only are they colleagues but they are friends. They make coming to the college a true delight.

Bay State College: What is one thing you hope your students learn from you?

JV: Don't become complacent. Ask questions. Collaborate. Stand tall in your profession. Embody the definition of a nurse.

Bay State College: What do you view as the greatest challenges and opportunities facing your industry today?

JV: Workload and scope of profession. I'll explain. With the advancements in healthcare, patients are arriving to hospitals sicker and sicker than they did historically. So when a patient presents to the emergency department, they are often critical. An intensive care patient of 20 or 30 years ago is now a step-down patient or even on a medical floor. The skill and knowledge required of nurses is broad. Also, individuals outside of the profession of nursing really don't understand the broad scope of our practice. There is a strong historical notion of nurses being "doctor's helps" but we are far from it. Nurses can be found not just in hospitals but in schools, research laboratories, forensics, computer technology, international medical evacuations, and disaster management, to name just a few. As a nurse, you can do just about anything that embodies your interests and passions.

Bay State College: What do you view as the greatest challenges and opportunities facing students - specifically those entering your industry today?

JV: Students in the RN to BSN program, in general, are already practicing. Many fit the demographic described as "non-traditional," meaning not the 18-24 year old typical college-aged student. They are at a point in their careers when they are considering "what's next"? They have clinical expertise and now they are looking to push the boundaries of their personal practice, the profession, and their job satisfaction. Defining what is next requires self-reflection and a careful balance of work-life happiness. Having their baccalaureate degree opens many doors not available earlier in their career.