A podium and backdrop with the Nebraska Wesleyan University logo.
Graduate degree student shares nursing wisdom

Graduate degree student shares nursing wisdom

  • Nurses working with patient
  • Nurses working with patient

Happy National Nurses Day! Tomorrow, over 400 Nebraska Wesleyan students will walk across the commencement stage to get their diploma, including 40 students with nursing-affiliated degrees.

Mary Kay Gillan is one of those students looking forward to this big day. She will graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing and Master of Business Administration (MSN/MBA) joint degree.

Mary Kay graduated from Creighton University with a B.A. degree in nursing from Creighton University, and currently serves as the director of perioperative services at CHI St. Elizabeth.

We recently asked Mary Kay about her graduate degree experience at NWU:

Why did you choose to attend graduate school at NWU? 

Attending graduate school was a personal goal for many years, but I kept putting it off for one reason on another. Once all the kids moved out, I wanted to advance my career and decided it was now or never. I attended an NWU open house and talked with Jeff Hardy (a recruiter for graduate programs). He made me feel like I could be successful in the program.

Mary Kay Gillian headshot

What got you interested in nursing? 

Growing up I always thought I would be a nurse. I had the little medical kits and everything. I like math and science and am fascinated by how the body functions. I also appreciate the holistic approach that nursing offers. We are not just physical beings but emotional and spiritual as well. Many things impact and influence our health and well-being.

How did you land on the MSN/MBA program versus the MSN? 

I decided as I was talking to Jeff at the open house that if I was going to commit to graduate school it would be best to do the dual program to meet my personal goals. Honestly, I was afraid that I may not go back [for an additional degree] after completing the MSN so decided I should go for broke.

How do you see this degree benefitting your career and future endeavors? 

I'm already seeing a return on my investment. Last summer, I was encouraged to apply for my current position [as director of perioperative services at CHI St. Elizabeth]. By being less than a year from completion of my graduate degree, I think the administration gave me a serious look as a candidate. I hope to continue using the skills I’ve learned to manage people and be an example for others to pursue their dreams.

What advice do you have for those who want to enter the nursing field? 

Enter the nursing field with the right priorities and know what you want to get out of it and put into it. There are so many areas of nursing that one can get into at this point. I would say though, that if you want to focus on hospital nursing, go into it with a clear understanding of what you will be asked to do and what you will be asked to give up.

Many people get into [the career] and then resent having to give up nights, holidays and weekends for their patients. If that is the case, then it would be best to pursue another area of nursing. Patients sense when you do not want to be there and they need the best, most engaged and caring staff possible. Some nurses love research, some love teaching, some love writing. Find the passion that drives you and allow yourself to be happy.

What advice do you have for those who want to attend

Mary Kay Gillian graduation photo

graduate school?

Going to graduate school requires a mental, emotional and financial commitment. But it’s all worth it if you are doing it for the right reasons. If not, it can be draining. I really enjoyed my graduate program. Perhaps that was because I was so excited to finally be pursuing it. When I spoke to my husband about going back to school his response was awesome. He said, “you can never take away education.” My family has been very supportive these last few years, and the kids are okay with having a nerd for a mom.

Nebraska Wesleyan's online MSN/MBA degree is designed for working nurses who want to increase their responsibilities for business operations in the health care industry. This joint degree is a 55-credit-hour program. 

Learn more about Nebraska Wesleyan’s online MSN and MSN/MBA programs, and join us for a free MSN Virtual Information Session on May 16.

Nebraska Wesleyan University's bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, 655 K Street NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791.