Although she’s been a nurse just over six years, Lexy Kaase has already enjoyed a robust career.
So far, she’s helped patients in the cardiac care unit, the ICU, the surgical ICU, and the emergency room. In these positions, she’s had the opportunity to interact with all types of people and treat all sorts of conditions, physical as well as psychiatric.
But she always knew she wanted more: to earn her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) so she could work as a nurse practitioner (NP) and provide a higher level of care for her patients. It was just a matter of taking that brave first step.
“I don’t know if there’s ever a right time to do something this big,” she says. “Life is so crazy — it’s always so busy. So, I just felt like it was now or never. I want to do this, and I’m going to just take the first step and dive in.”
Driven by passion and compassion — and inspired by the NPs she has watched make patients’ lives better — she’s taking steps to make an even bigger difference through nursing.
I want to provide the best care I can for my patients. Keeping that ‘why’ in mind has been a motivator for me.
Compassion is in her blood
Lexy, whose mother is a nurse, has a lifelong history of wanting to help others.
Growing up with a brother on the autism spectrum, she remembers the care and empathy with which the nurses treated him — and the feeling of wanting to help others in the same way. In fact, one of the first careers she remembers wanting to pursue as a child was an autism therapist. During high school, she even volunteered at a nearby hospital, taking a cue from her mother.
So, when she graduated with her MSN in Psychiatric Mental Health, it was the culmination of a lifetime of preparation.
Although her goal was to work in psychiatric care, she didn’t always feel prepared, so she felt that it was important to build her general nursing skills first.
“I’ve always been interested in mental health,” she says. “I felt, as a new nurse, I was really shy, and I wasn’t sure how to do a lot of the therapeutic interventions and a lot of the behavioral aspects of psychiatric nursing, so I didn’t think that was the right fit for me when I first started.”
But earning her MSN and gaining plenty of on-the-job experience helped her build the confidence to take the next step.
Now, with her MSN in hand — and fully equipped with the knowledge and skills to thrive in her dream role — Lexy already has her next career move lined up. Before she even graduated, she had accepted a new job at the Mayo Clinic that will take her, her husband, and her dogs, Sage and Turbo, from Duluth, Minnesota, about four hours south to Rochester. It’s a career move that will allow her to grow as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, while keeping the parts of her current job that she loves.
“It just feels like all the aspects of the job I like are encompassed in this position,” she says. “I get to go all over and see patients in different areas [of the clinic], and I think that’s a really unique thing. I was really excited about that — that I don’t have to give up anything that I like doing.”
Working and learning on her own time
Deciding to earn an MSN is a big start, but to be successful, you also need the right university to help you build the right foundation and meet you on your terms.
For Lexy, the process of finding the right MSN program proved to be a quick one: She did some research and discussed it with colleagues, and she found that Maryville’s online MSN would provide the flexibility, support, and quality she expected.
“I liked the online model,” she says. “I did continue to work throughout the entire program, so I needed something that was flexible with my work schedule, where I could dictate when and where I go to clinical. … I’m glad I went through this school. I really had a good experience.”
Along with coursework that she could complete when and where it was convenient for her, Lexy found that being able to choose her own preceptors gave her the opportunity to grow as a nurse in a way that aligned with her goals and interests.
“I like that I got to pick my preceptors, because I got to pick people who have similar values as I did, learn from their different styles,” she says. “And just seeing the way they connect with patients and the difference that they make in patients’ lives has been really inspiring.”
Throughout her time at Maryville, Lexy found that she had a strong support network that included her biggest cheerleader, her husband — she had just met him when she began the program, and they got married as she approached the finish line — and her friends and family. She also had the support of her advisor, and she knew the faculty were invested in her success and there for her if she needed them.
But a unique aspect of earning her MSN online was the close-knit group of friends she found from all over the country and representing new perspectives and insights. With this group, she found she was able to commiserate with like-minded nurses who could relate to the challenges and celebrate the successes they all shared.
“I have met, through the program, some really close friends,” she says. “They live all over, and it’s been really fun to get to interact with them. It’s a really good support group that we’ve established. We message every day, we have Zoom study sessions before exams, answer questions that we might have, and now we’re all going to meet in Chicago for the first time for a boards prep review.”
I have met through the program some really close friends. We message every day.
To help others, first help yourself
A life of service can be fulfilling. It’s one of the primary reasons people go into nursing — and why careers like nurse practitioner consistently rank highly on U.S. News & World Report‘s annual list of the best jobs in America. It’s rated No. 2 in 2022, behind only information security analyst.
But it can also be draining, and burnout is a real problem for nurses. That’s why Lexy advises current and aspiring nurses to watch out for their own physical, mental, and spiritual health first and foremost.
“If you can’t take care of yourself, it makes it that much more difficult to take care of others,” she says. “Just remember: It’s not selfish to take time for yourself. … It can get really busy, and life can get really chaotic, so just remembering to give yourself grace and take some time for yourself.”
For Lexy, this means finding time to do the things she loves, like running, being with friends and family, spending time on the lake, or going four-wheeling. Sometimes, it even means doing nothing at all. She also finds comfort with her supportive husband — who had the honor of being her “test patient” in her health assessment course — and her two dogs.
“They’re always there with me,” she says. “I’ll take them on walks and listen to lectures through the canvas app and spend time with them. Or they’re laying in the office with me while I’m doing homework. They’re always there, and they just know when I’m stressed out.”
Accomplishing goals and making moves
Lexy accomplished a major life goal by finishing her MSN. But she’s not done yet.
She’s seen a lot in her first six years, but she knows there’s plenty left to experience, and that learning is a lifelong process — especially in a field that evolves as quickly and dramatically as nursing.
She plans on taking some time off from structured learning to focus on growing and getting comfortable in her new job at the Mayo Clinic. But she also intends to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree sometime in the next few years — and continue her education even beyond that.
“Especially with new medications coming out, new research, there’s just things that are changing constantly, and in order to provide good and confident care, it’s important,” she says. “In order to provide competent care, you just need to continue to learn.”
Between career experience and education, Lexy has her next steps planned for many years to come. But that brave first step to pursue her MSN was one of the most important. Now, she’s on track to move up in her career, provide better patient care, and reach her dreams as a leader in psychiatric nursing.
It’s just one way to be brave.
“I feel like being brave is just being willing to put yourself out there — taking that step toward your goal, no matter how big or small that step is,” she says. “Just having the courage to pursue your dreams.”
If you’re ready to see how Maryville Online can help you be brave and pursue your passion, we’re here for you. Check out our online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees, or schedule a call with an advisor today.
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