There are times when you get a sign from above, and you just know what you want to do with your life.
It happened to Jason Peck at age 10.
“I grew up in an EMS family, and one day I saw a helicopter come pick up a patient,” he said. “I wanted to be an air medical crewmember after that, and I went to nursing school to become a flight nurse.”
Peck achieved his childhood dream, and worked as a flight nurse for five years. Now he brings his knowledge of emergency care and advanced life support to the role of critical care nurse in a hospital intensive care unit.
“This change was fairly recent, so I’m still working out my new routine there,” he said. “I go in in the morning, get report on my patients, assess them and see if there’s anything emergent or urgent that needs to be dealt with.”
Peck regularly works a 12 to 14 hour shifts in the ICU, but still finds time to pursue his next big goal — becoming a nurse practitioner. He is on track to graduate from the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at Northern Kentucky University in 2020, as the first step on his new career path. He chose NKU for the flexibility and convenience of its degree programs, and the fact that he could complete every part of the education he needed online.
“I need a master’s program that offers both family and acute care nurse practitioner tracks,” he said. “NKU had that, and the BSN was a good way to start at the school and get familiar with the process there.
“In a lot of ways, it’s better than I expected,” Peck continued. “I took an online class 18 years ago when I was in college the first time, and it was a disaster. So, I was leery about this, but it has actually worked out better than I imagined.”
A Unique Perspective on Nursing
As a former flight nurse, Peck has a perspective on nursing that’s different than many of his RN peers. The intensity of the job, advanced certification requirement, and variety of accident and injury situations he encountered all influence his work as an RN to BSN student. He has been happy to share his unique experiences with others in his online courses, and doing so has given him a new appreciation for what he has accomplished in his life thus far.
“I actually never paid as much attention to how incredible some of the stuff I did as a flight nurse was until I started using those experiences in my assignments and writing about them to tell other people,” he said. “So it really gave me a great self-awareness to how profound my practice as a flight nurse was.”
Peck says that his professors and classmates were excited to hear about the experiences he shared in online discussion board posts due in large part to the level of autonomy he had as a flight nurse.
“The point of view it brings to the conversation intrigued a lot of them,” he said. “It’s such a drastically different nursing specialty than any other, so there was a lot of interest and intrigue into how we did a lot of the stuff we did, and how there’s so much more to it than just taking care of sick folks.”
The stories Peck shares with his fellow nurses often reflect his motivation to become an advanced practice RN. He enjoyed managing different aspects of care and critical support, and the independent nature of his work.
“Being a nurse practitioner allows me to use the skills I’ve learned over the last 23 years, and take care of sick human beings in a way that maximizes the experience I had in my journey as a flight nurse,” he said. “When you’re out in the aircraft, with you and your partner, you practice at such a higher level than a bedside nurse because you’re under such autonomous conditions. It’s analogous to being a nurse practitioner in some ways.”
Refreshing Core Knowledge, Gaining New Skills
As Peck sees it, every nurse with an associate degree or hospital diploma should consider enrolling in an RN to BSN program. Now that he has, the reasons to get a BSN are clear.
“Nursing is becoming a field where it’s necessary to have your bachelor’s degree,” he said, because more employers require it, sometimes within a certain number of years of being hired. “It’s understood that it has to be done at some point basically now.”
Peck also points out that the knowledge RNs gain with a BSN can be valuable regardless of one’s experience or career plans. Despite his background in flight nursing and ICU critical care, and 18 years as an RN, he’s always seeking to develop a deeper understanding of the human body. One of the RN to BSN courses he has valued most so far is NRP 476: Impact of Genetics/Genomics on Health.
“Genetics is related to many disease processes. It’s not something I use every day, but it’s good to have that knowledge and understanding.”
Even with a hectic schedule, Peck has found a way to excel in his classes, and he thinks that anyone with enough drive should be able to do so.
“I’m doing well enough to be on the honor roll, and I graduated 10th from the bottom of my high school class,” he laughed. “You have to have a good internet connection and understand that it does take work — a lot of work — but it’s still doable.”
Working Toward a Goal, Together
Peck gives a lot of credit to his wife, Katie, for encouraging him to pursue his goals. He believes her loving care and patience has allowed him to succeed in the NKU online RN to BSN program.
“My wife’s supportive, because the end goal is that I can work and provide for us,” he said. “She takes care of a lot of day-to-day life stuff while I’m working on schoolwork. She’s also understanding that when we don’t get to do a lot of the fun stuff we did before I started the program, it’s for the long-term gain.”
Once Peck reaches his final goal and becomes a nurse practitioner, he knows he will continue to make a personal, lasting impact in the lives of his patients for years to come.
“It will allow me to go to places that need qualified providers with the experiences I’ve had and take care of the people that need it.”
Learn more about NKU’s online RN to BSN program