It’s a very common idea in the Detroit area to return to higher education when the circumstances permit and when the benefit will serve not only yourself, but the greater good. Just because someone can’t earn an advanced degree right after their undergraduate studies, doesn’t mean they have to give up their graduate dreams altogether. 

Janet Patterson returned to nursing school recently during a nursing shortage to compound her degree after originally graduating with an associate of science in nursing and earning her registered nurse (RN) title in 1980. In 2009, she graduated from a bachelor of science in nursing university program. She has been turning the extra work into greater success, despite the span of three decades between her formal educations.

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Janet Patterson (photo courtesy of Janet Patterson)

Janet Patterson (photo courtesy of Janet Patterson)

What is the most relevant aspect of your education that applies to your day-to-day job?

“I would say one aspect is self-care, to apply what I learn as an RN in taking care of myself, too. In addition, science-based practice and critical thinking are important, as well. It’s in every aspect of my care: infection control, connecting with patients psychologically, data collection and reporting, i.e. assessment and charting. I can’t do my job without these two bases.”

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How important is a solid education within your field?

“Education is absolutely the most important thing. The better a nurse is with critical thinking skills, the better he or she will practice nursing. The more education and experience a nurse has about/with cultures other than the one he or she grew up with, the better he or she will be at their craft. Also important are multicultural experiences, a second or even third language and strong critical thinking skills, which can come from education.”

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

“The hospital/employer/union will not be your husband, your father, your mother or your wife. It has no obligation to take care of you beyond the laws governing it, so don’t put all your faith in your employer or your union to take care of you. Learn the science behind modern nursing. Learn and practice your critical thinking, i.e. nursing process, and put your faith in being a professional nurse no matter what level of education or licensure you have. Do good by doing well.”

Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Creative Writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in Ypsilanti Township. Additional writing can be found at

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