How One Man Used His Military Training to Become a Nurse Manager
The bond that military veterans share is like no other. So when a former U.S. Army infantry medic and licensed practical nurse (LPN) found his niche that combined military life and healthcare and decided to turn it into a rewarding career, he chose American Sentinel University’s military-friendly online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program to strengthen his nursing career trajectory.
Jeff Berendsen, 41, Brunswick, Ohio plans to earn the credentials he needs to achieve his goal of becoming a nurse manager of the surgical recovery unit at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.
“I wanted an accredited university and a program that would benefit me in my job,” he says. “American Sentinel was the right choice.”
“Obtaining his BSN will prepare Jeff for advancement in his nursing career at the VA Center,” says Karen Whitham, EdD, RN, CNE, assistant dean, undergraduate nursing programs at American Sentinel University. “A BSN will prepare Jeff to integrate nursing theory and evidence-based practice into his daily nursing activities. More importantly, since the VA, in particular, looks at the academic credential for promotion, having his BSN will play a key role in preparing him for his future career as a nurse manager.”
Landing a Job He Loves
After landing a job at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in 2009, where he continues to work in surgical recovery nursing, Berendsen knew he wanted to deepen his knowledge and advance his career there. “I knew that I wanted my career to be at the VA and to move up in this system you need a bachelor’s or master’s degree,” he says.
He was awarded a scholarship from the VA and began to search for the right online university. “I needed a program where I could go at my own pace. Finding the right fit and culture of an online university now became part of my journey.”
Destination American Sentinel University
After just one phone call, Berendsen knew American Sentinel was the right fit for him.
“When I talked to an advisor, I knew this was the place for me,” he says. “Every single advisor I’ve had has been fantastic. I love the courses, the class structure, and the class pace, and I appreciate that American Sentinel is a military friendly university, but the advisors are what have made the difference.”
American Sentinel designs its curriculum for maximum learning. The classes are eight weeks long and start monthly, so students have the freedom to manage their schedules at a pace that works best for their busy family and work life. Student support services help students be self-sufficient and thrive in an academic setting.
Starting college as a 41-year-old and as a husband and a father of two elementary-age children, Berendsen had plenty of hurdles to overcome. “The program can be a lot of hard work, and I was terrified of the computer at first,” he says. “My life is very busy, but the student support services at American Sentinel helped a great deal.”
Berendsen’s student success advisor, Sara Moulton, says that he had a natural ability to balance his professional, educational and personal life so her role was to respect his time and provide friendly reminders to keep him on track.
“My relationship with Jeff is built on trust, and he knew he could turn to me if he needed direction,” she says. “As Jeff’s advocate, I knew he was balancing a very busy life and how important it was to answer his questions and concerns quickly so he could move forward more successfully.”
Next Stop: Nursing Management
Berendsen has one class left to complete his BSN and then he plans to take a short break before he begins the next phase of his education in American Sentinels’ graduate program – MSN, nursing management and organizational leadership specialization to achieve his goal of becoming the nurse manager of the surgical recovery unit where he currently works.
“I’m a lifer here,” he admits. “With my military background, coming to work here has been the right decision. There’s a certain bond that military veterans have with one another – like a brotherhood. Being a vet taking care of other vets is a great feeling.”
American Sentinel University’s online graduate nursing programs were recently recognized as one of the nation’s best online graduate nursing programs in the 2015 U.S. News & World Reportrankings of public and private universities. In addition, the university was recognized by Military Advanced Education (MAE) as a top school supporting the military community in its 2015 MAEGuide to Colleges & Universities.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.