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We have another indefatigable and seemingly unstoppable Nurse of the Week on the verge of earning a BSN! The Nurse of the Week this time is Sabrina Bertsch, whose path to a Rutgers University–Camden nursing degree wound across the United States and included struggles with illness and financial insecurity.
As she receives her third college degree this spring – an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) from the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden – the Hainesport resident says that her dream of a career in nursing was worth the life challenges she encountered along the way.ould
Bertsch became interested in health care in her early 20s after the birth of her first child. She worked as a professional skateboard photographer in Philadelphia, utilizing her first bachelor’s degree in photography.
While she always planned to pursue a career in midwifery, life circumstances forced her to put her plans on hold for nearly 20 years.
After moving to Albuquerque, where she worked as a bartender and was pregnant with her second child, Bertsch was motivated to work in emergency medicine after witnessing customers at the tavern become sick from high alcohol consumption. “It pushed me to do something immediate to help save lives,” says Bertsch.
Bertsch was an emergency medical technician in Albuquerque and then in New Jersey, until she was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy during her third pregnancy. A subsequent divorce and another move back to her hometown in Tennessee required putting off a nursing education for another 10 years.
After earning a master of arts in teaching degree from Liberty University in 2015, she briefly worked as a substitute teacher. “My heart was truly in nursing, specifically nurse-midwifery, so I decided I had put it off long enough and began my earnest path toward that goal,” she says.
Financial issues and caring for a sick child at home made the journey difficult but did not deter her from pursuing her dream career.
While working full-time as a server at a restaurant, Bertsch began taking prerequisites for a nursing degree, paying cash for the classes.
In early 2020, Bertsch faced some of the most challenging times in her life. While raising her four children, Bertsch began the 15-month Rutgers–Camden ABSN program for students who hold a degree in a non-nursing major.
Just a few weeks into the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden program, Bertsch suffered a medical crisis that required hospitalization, nearly derailing her plans to pursue the degree.
Then the pandemic hit New Jersey.
Her partner’s acupuncture business shut down, and the family had no income for several weeks. Her children suffered anxiety from the lockdown and having to take classes online.
By drawing on her experience in conquering hurdles, Bertsch persevered with support from her partner and her children.
Bertsch’s 20-year-old son, a sophomore at Rutgers, was living at his grandparents’ home. Her 17-year-old son was taking virtual classes at home, and she was homeschooling her 15-year-old son, and caring for her four-year-old daughter.
“It wasn’t perfect,” says Bertsch. “Probably too much screen time and boxed mac-n-cheese, but we have all come together as a team and as a family.”
For Bertsch, a positive outcome of taking classes online during the pandemic has been a greater appreciation of opportunities to learn. “I think that being online has pushed me to not take a moment, an opportunity, or a lesson for granted,” says Bertsch. “I became a hyper-alert student, taking in everything I could; every question I had, I asked without hesitation.”
Bertsch will be working as a birth assistant for a homebirth practice in Pennington.
In August, she will begin a Georgetown University online dual-graduate program for certified nurse-midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner.