Behind the Scrubs: Alumna’s Efforts Have Ripple Effects in Healthcare

Michelle S. (BSN ’17, DNP ’21, PMHNP ’24)

Michelle S. (BSN ’17, DNP ’21, PMHNP ’24) first heard the calling to help others when she was only 6 years old. She witnessed a hit-and-run incident involving her 3-year-old brother, a harrowing experience that instilled in her an awareness of the importance of emergency care, as well as a deep respect for the wonderful individuals dedicating their lives to the profession. The experience was the first step to igniting a deep-seated desire within her to aid those in need.

However, her journey into nursing wasn’t always a straight path. Michelle, whose creative talents shone brightly from a young age, initially earned a scholarship to pursue design. Nevertheless, when the time came to choose a career, her aunt encouraged her to join the nursing field, and Michelle embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly.

When it comes to choosing nursing over design, Michelle says she knows she made the right choice: “People often wonder if I regret my choice, but I’ve always been drawn to healthcare,” she said. “Witnessing the esteem of the profession and considering my role as a young mother, plus the assurance of job stability, I’ve never looked back. It’s been an honor and one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”

After years of service as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) in acute care case management, Michelle decided to take the next step in her nursing career. She pursued a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at West Coast University-Ontario, earning her degree in 2017 and becoming a registered nurse in an oncology/stroke unit. During her time at WCU, her academic performance earned her a spot on the prestigious dean’s list, a testament to the efforts she put into excelling in her courses and clinical practices. 

Since graduating, Michelle has taken on roles that allow her impact to extend even beyond her patients. In her career so far, Michelle has:

  • Become a concurrent review nurse and was recognized as her department’s first employee of the month
  • Pioneered the first onsite hospital nursing role for the utilization management department in her managed healthcare organization
  • Mentored and trained fellow nurses in their new onsite nursing roles
  • Initiated a voluntary mindfulness program for nursing staff, which was linked to boosted productivity and reduced stress
  • Developed a local resource guide to help minimize gaps in access to healthcare for female veterans at a local university

Through her different roles, Michelle’s efforts have had a ripple effect through the community. She has not just taken care of her patients, but championed projects and practices that empower her fellow nurses to provide better care.

“I’m not your typical bedside nurse, and that’s the beauty of nursing — its versatility,” Michelle said.

Now, Michelle validates nursing practices within the Integrated Transitional Care department, primarily focusing on quality assurance and optimizing patient care. Though initially apprehensive about this new role, she now considers it one of her favorites, blending her case management background with clinical insights.

Recently, she decided to take on another important role, this time as a clinical instructor, serving as an internal preceptor for colleagues who wish to pursue their graduate degree. She took special pride in witnessing her first Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student graduate last year.

As to what’s next, Michelle is on the verge of becoming a triple WCU alumna, on track to finish her post-master’s Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certificate in 2024. “I never imagined myself in mental health, but after completing my Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2019, I sought a specialty — a niche,” she said.

The mental health specialty is perfectly in line with Michelle’s experience and interest in wellness and mindfulness. About her career so far, she has said, “I find fulfillment in roles prioritizing self-care, personal growth, teamwork collaboration, and fostering a positive culture. Most importantly, encouraging innovation to achieve quality and safe patient outcomes.”

We can’t wait to see what Michelle does next!

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WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.