Graduate Puts Master’s Degree to Work in Transplantation

By Linda Friedel  Published with permission from The Kansas City Nursing News--June 10, 2013

August 7, 2013
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New graduates celebrated hard earned degrees in May and are putting their new knowledge to the test this summer. For some it is a second time around.

Jami Gleason earned her master’s degree this spring from MidAmerica Nazarene University (MNU) where she also earned her BSN. Gleason earned her bachelor’s degree from MNU’s traditional nursing program in 2000 and earned her master’s degree through the traditional route, as well.

“An advanced degree is never a bad thing, whether you just learn a different way to approach challenges or day by day problem solving,” said Gleason, RN, BSN, MSN, director of Organ Procurement Services at Midwest Transplant Network. “It exposes you to a bigger picture and more well-rounded environment.”

Gleason said she feels fortunate to work for a company that values higher education. Midwest Transplant Network, a not-for-profit company, offers full tuition reimbursement to employees who have worked there for a period of time and who plan to commit for another two years. The agency is very mission-driven, Gleason said.

“I work for a company that is continually trying to improve and grow,” Gleason said. “It’s an amazing place to work.”

Gleason took three years to earn her degree. The pace was just right, she said. Gleason works full time, has two young children and a husband who travels, she said. She took one course at a time, adjusting her schedule as needed. It was a do-able schedule, she said. Attending night classes in a traditional setting best suited her style of learning, she said.

“It kept me at a good pace,” Gleason said. “It was a good blessing. I would take a session off here and there.”

Gleason pursued her master’s degree to further her career. Most employees in leadership positions at MidWest Transplant Network hold master’s degrees, she said. Though she plans to stay where she is, Gleason said she knows many of the area hospitals require advanced degrees for leadership positions. In the event she is ever down-sized, Gleason said she is prepared.

“I wanted to equip myself with the experience and education for another good job,” Gleason said.

One of her professors drilled down a concept that stuck with her. When we graduate we would think differently, Gleason said. When you have a master’s degree you should feel OK asking why we couldn’t do it this way, she said.

“Think more big picture,” she said. “That’s where I need to be out of this. Every little piece of information makes you a more rounded individual.”

Much of the content in her master’s program was focused on hospital nursing, Gleason said. Gleason said she was able to apply new knowledge to her work setting throughout the program. She said the curriculum in her undergraduate degree focused on testing to synthesizing material such as in pharmacology, whereas her master’s program was big-picture thinking. Gleason concentrated on the administration track in MSN. Other students in her cohort focused on hospital management.

“Most of them were in some sort of hospital nursing,” she said. “I was on the administration track.”

Gleason considers her work at Midwest Transplant Network as a non-traditional path in nursing. Prior to

joining Midwest Transplant Network, Gleason worked in a hospital bone marrow program where she assisted patients and collected data. During nursing school she had not been exposed to the specialty of transplantation. Gleason says she cannot see doing anything else.

“It was an area I had never heard of,” she said. “It was just intriguing how that whole process worked.”

Gleason started at Midwest Transplant Network as coordinator in 2003 and four years later advanced to management. In February of 2013 she was named director of Organ Procurement Services. She said

she is thrilled with her new position but is still finding her footing.

“It’s very exciting,” she said. In new her role, Gleason manages several divisions including the clinical

staff, family service coordinators and the recovery staff in the 100-employee company. She is in charge of

much of the day-to-day operations, she said. Gleason said she is pleased with the longevity among staff employees.

“This company is just a really amazing executive leadership who has worked in the trenches,” she said.

“There is a lot of longevity.”

It takes commitment to work in the transplant industry, Gleason said. She is on call 24 hours a day. Some employees leave not because they dislike the work, she said, but because it is difficult to balance schedules and their personal life.