Three sisters’ unique educational journeys all led to UWO’s accelerated nursing program - UW Oshkosh Today
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A family comprising three generations of nurses came together on Oct. 4 at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh as Kiara Turzinski graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the accelerated online nursing program (Accel).

Turzinski is not only a part of this three-generation tradition but also is the third of her siblings to graduate from UW Oshkosh’s Accel program. She was joined by sisters Danielle Espe ’14, and Amanda Dernbach ’11, for the accelerated nursing graduation and pinning ceremony at the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center.

Leanne Turzinski, mother of the three College of Nursing (CON) alumnae, said medical professions seem to run in their family. She herself is a registered nurse and has held several nursing roles at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home at King for more than 30 years; her mother and sister are licensed practical nurses and her brother is a physician’s assistant.

“I see our family as caring, compassionate and willing to serve others,” she said. “It’s no coincidence. This is what we love to do.”

UW Oshkosh’s Accel program is unique in that it is a second-degree option, meaning candidates must already have a bachelor’s degree prior to enrolling. This makes the 12-month BSN program feasible as many baccalaureate-level general education courses are required to alleviate the narrow timeframe.

Despite growing up in a family of healthcare professionals, not one of the three sisters in the youngest generation considered nursing when they first began college.

Espe, of Naperville, Illinois, originally got her degree in human biology and exercise science. With a background in life science as well as experience working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), she was a prime candidate for the Accel program. Within three years of graduating with her first degree, she applied to UW Oshkosh in October 2013 and graduated with a BSN the following year.

However, Espe didn’t discover this career-changing opportunity entirely on her own. Dernbach, her older sister, first enlisted in Accel in 2010. The eldest pioneered the rigorous online curriculum and clinical rotations at a rate of one credit per week. She is now a family nurse practitioner in La Crosse.

Espe was intrigued by the unique path her sister followed to become a nurse, and after hearing stories of the clinicals, lab exercises and theory coursework, her interest was piqued to follow in Dernbach’s footsteps.

As Espe and Dernbach were dabbling in nursing, their youngest sister was entering college to study biology. In addition to school, Kiara Turzinski, of Almond, worked part-time as a CNA in a local hospital. These experiences eventually made her realize her true passion was nursing.

With her older sisters as role models, Turzinski was motivated to continue the family’s legacy in Accel. She graduated with a bachelor’s in biology in May 2017 and began the accelerated BSN program through UW Oshkosh just five months later.

Now that all three of her daughters have settled into nursing, their mother radiates pride. Beyond the caregiving tradition that runs in the family, Leanne Turzinski genuinely understands the significance and importance of each new nurse who enters the field.

As staff development director at the veterans’ hospital, Turzinski is all too familiar with the nationwide nursing shortage as well as the high demand for baccalaureate-prepared nurses.

“The Accel program takes a lot of self-motivation and determination, but it provides such an excellent opportunity for people to advance their careers and contribute to the workforce,” she said.

Accel was developed by CON in 2003 in response to the nationwide shortage of nurses. Still today, as a high percentage of nurses are approaching retirement, the demand for nontraditional nursing education continues.

Accel is a fully accredited, national model for online nursing and graduates up to 90 BSN students per year. The attrition rate is less than 1 percent, and CON’s first-time pass rate for the National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) consistently hovers around 96 percent.

“It’s funny to think that between the three of us, none of us thought to do nursing as our first degree,” Espe, the middle sister, laughed. “But we all found our way, and I am proud to share this profession with them.”

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