Currently a full time assistant professor of nursing at Messiah College, Kristen Slabaugh ’05 holds a second professional position to pursue her strong passion for nursing—she works per diem as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) at PinnacleHealth System. From a Messiah student to a nursing faculty member and a professional advanced practice nurse, Slabaugh shows that with a passionate heart, there is no limit to what one can dream for their future.
Her career journey started in June 2005, when Slabaugh worked as a registered nurse in the Women’s Health Unit at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. She completed her Master of Science in Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree from Penn State University in May 2010. She went on to work as a Maternity/Pediatrics faculty member in Messiah’s Department of Nursing, and now also teaches a variety of courses across the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. In July 2012, she began working at PinnacleHealth as an FNP and started a Doctorate of Nursing Practice program with the Nurse Educator subspecialty in the fall 2013, and anticipates graduation in 2017.
Slabaugh said an undergraduate education at Messiah has helped her to be a well-rounded thinker, leader, and servant. She was prepared for graduate education because of the curriculum and rigor of the undergraduate nursing program.
“Not only did I learn the entire foundation of my career at Messiah, I learned how to apply my faith beliefs into practice,” said Slabaugh. “I was encouraged to learn how to care for people far beyond their immediate health needs. I felt very prepared to take the NCLEX-RN® licensure exam and launch a career and continued education.”
Despite great achievements stemming from her consistent efforts, Slabaugh expressed that a career path in the field of nursing is not an easy road. One of the common job challenges that she, like many other nurses, faces is having to work shifts during nights, weekends, and holidays. “Some positions are even emotionally and physically draining,” said Slabaugh. “Additionally, nurses face difficult situations such as death, severe illness, abuse, and non-compliance.”
That being said, a nursing major is not for everyone. And according to Slabaugh, a person should possess certain qualities to be able to pursue a career in the field of nursing. “Definitely dedicated, hardworking and passionate,” said Slabaugh. “A nursing major should also be strong in the sciences and have an interest in caring for others.”
However, when nursing has become a part of a person, this career path will inspire and assist him or her in many ways. Slabaugh said even though nursing requires a lot of selfless giving, one will gain more than he or she will ever give. There are abundant career options and a variety of populations, opportunities, and advanced career pathways. Job security and competitive wages are also advantages that attract people to pursue the field.
For students who are considering a nursing major, Slabaugh advised that they need to love the field because it will become an intrinsic part of them. “It won’t work to just do it for the money. It has to be in your heart.” For other students, the same concept can also apply, as students should put their mind where their heart lies.
“Explore your interests!” said Slabaugh. “You have to love what you do. Observe as many professionals as possible in your areas of interest before and during your college career and ask tons of questions.”