From the Front Lines to the Line at Graduation: Professional Nursing Alumna Carves Her Path
Fresh out of high school Shannon Bagardo worked while taking general courses at her local community college. At that time, she remembers feeling college was not for her. She wasn’t passionate about what she was doing and didn’t quite know where to turn. “I didn’t have the right mind-set for college at the time,” she says. In 2007, knowing she needed a change of pace, she found an opportunity that would change her life and help her to uncover her true purpose. “When the opportunity to join the United States Air Force presented itself, I enlisted—and it was one of the best decisions of my life,” she says.
Bagardo started her five-year active duty career as an aerospace medical technician, a role in the Air Force similar to that of an emergency medical technician (EMT). “While in Afghanistan, I experienced critical care of patients and was surrounded by nurses on a daily basis. I was drawn to the skills and knowledge they possessed,” she says. “Being able to see a patient through trauma, working to stabilize them and then watching them recover is a truly remarkable experience.” It was from her experiences in Afghanistan that Bagardo knew her life’s work would be to care for others.
After meeting her husband, an active duty Army man himself, and having their first of two children, Bagardo transitioned into the Air Force Reserve Command. It was during this time she decided to focus on her education again. This time, Bagardo had her eyes set on a nursing degree, a role she had been thinking about since her time in active duty. In 2014 she put her years of military experience as a medic to good use in the civilian world and became a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Knowing she wanted to advance her education and accelerate her career, Bagardo knew her next step was to pursue her Associate’s degree and become a registered nurse (RN). While her goal was clear, the road to the degree was anything but easy.
Due to her husband’s multiple deployments, Bagardo started and then was forced to stop three different professional nursing programs across the country. In order to keep her family intact, she felt she had to put her education on the back burner.
After finding stability in Topeka, Kansas, Bagardo learned about the Rasmussen College School of Nursing. “In Topeka I first started at a local community college, but Rasmussen got me to where I wanted to go, faster,” she says. “They accepted more of my military credits and various other credits I picked up along the way.”
Now was the right time for Bagardo to focus on her education. “All through active duty you are required to be an active learner. You are always taking part in different classes and learning experiences,” she says. “The military teaches you resilience and that things are always subject to change. It set me up to be successful in college and push through difficult times.” To honor her military service, Rasmussen College provided Bagardo the opportunity to leverage military benefits and position for the next chapter of her professional life.
The hands-on training Bagardo received in the Air Force set her up to be a strong Nursing student. So strong in fact that at last she graduated in March 2019 with her Professional Nursing Associate’s degree—but she is not done learning yet. “I just passed my NCLEX, so I am officially an RN! In May I start[ed] a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program so I can continue to grow in this amazing field.”
In the future, Bagardo hopes to combine her nursing expertise with a role she gained experience in while in the military. She plans to one day become a flight nurse, an RN trained specifically to provide medical care to patients during aircraft transportation. She says, “Being a nurse opens the doors to so many routes of life. I can’t wait to see where I fit in best.”
Shannon Bagardo’s story is proof that you can find time to invest in yourself and apply your previous life experiences to your future career. Her educational investment is not only helping her grow her career, but it’s also setting an important example for her children.
Have you considered a fulfilling and practical career as a military nurse? Learn more about this rewarding career in our article, “Caring for Your Country: A Closer Look at the Role of a Military Nurse.”
If you’re interested in following in Bagardo’s footsteps, learn more about the Rasmussen College School of Nursing programs.