Military veterans have a lot of relevant experience to share after their service to the country is over, and many of them are choosing a career in nursing to help meet growing demand.
Shaeye Frierson, a nursing instructor at Herzing University, joined the military at age 22, in hopes of building a better life for her 2-year-old son. During her 11 years as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, and through several deployments, she realized she had a true passion for helping others.
In 2010, Shaeye applied her Post-9/11 GI Bill funds toward nursing school at Herzing, while her mother helped her raise her two young children. She’s now working on her master’s degree while teaching nursing classes at Herzing, and serving as an unofficial mentor for military vets on campus.
We sat down with Shaeye to learn more about her experience in the nursing program, as well as her transition to a career as a nurse educator.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
I always knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. When I joined the military, I was offered a medic position and I really enjoyed it. I moved up in rank, and became even more passionate about my work. Our fellow soldiers depended on us for their lives. I thought there could be no more rewarding career than that. I knew then that I wanted to pursue a career in nursing.
What did you enjoy about the accelerated nursing program?
What was challenging? In the military, your education is so fast, and you get used to learning that way. The accelerated program was perfect for me, and I excelled because of my medical training and my experience with learning at that pace.
Balancing the demands of work and school can be challenging at times, and a lot of students struggle with that at first, especially in an accelerated program. I created a schedule for myself, setting aside time for homework, work, sleep, etc., because that's how you're programmed to do things in the military. It worked for me, and I share that tip with a lot of my students. It seems to work for them as well.
What are some of the differences between civilian healthcare and military healthcare?
A hospital corpsmen in the Navy can do pretty much everything a civilian nurse can do, and more. Our medical training in the military is often more advanced and accelerated than a traditional nursing program because we have to know how to handle a lot of different situations.
For example, in 2004, I was deployed on a ship for eight months. We only had one doctor on the ship. If a person was sick, they would come to us – the corpsmen—and we would treat them or provide recommendations for the doctor to sign off on. We had more autonomy than a civilian nurse because that’s the only way you can ensure everyone receives the care they need.
Why did you choose to become a nurse educator?
I graduated from Herzing with my BSN in 2013. I had become a mentor and resource for other military veterans on campus, and when the dean asked me if I wanted to be an instructor I accepted. Students with a military background need someone to help them navigate the transition to an accelerated nursing program, and I can be that person because I’ve done it myself. I’m currently enrolled in the MSN Nurse Educator program and expecting to graduate in January 2020.
What is most rewarding about being an educator?
The most rewarding part about my job is giving back to the university that helped me become the nurse I am today. I love helping out the military veteran students – even those that aren’t in the nursing program. I usually find out who they are during orientation, and make an effort to meet with them and ask about their concerns, if they need help with their benefits, etc. I want to help them be successful.
What advice would you offer to other veterans who want to pursue a healthcare career?
I would say Herzing is the perfect school for a military veteran, especially if you want to become a nurse. The accelerated BSN program is a smooth transition because the pace of learning is similar to what you’re used to. We also have incredibly supportive instructors to help you every step of the way.