John Colangelo Solidifies Nursing Practice Through Online RN to BSN Program

UNM online RNto BSN graduate John Colangelo

It doesn't take a nurse to get a pulse on John Colangelo's work history.

"My resume looks a bit schizophrenic," he said. "People say, 'Who is this guy? What is he? Is he information technology? Is he project management?' I've been a project manager for my whole career as an adjunct. Project managers can work in engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, aviation or nursing -- whatever field you apply those principles to."

Colangelo, 59, remains a project management consultant, but his full-time job is as a registered nurse in the spine center at Evergreen Health Care in Kirkland, Washington. He graduated from UNM's Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program in 2017.

"I wanted to do something a little bit more altruistic with the final phase of my career, for the last 15 years or so," he said. "Nursing seemed like something that would work well with my schedule and allow me to give back. One of the great things about being in the nursing field is, the skill set is so versatile."

The plan worked like a charm. Colangelo has time to look back on his diverse background while enjoying his newer career and the good life in the Pacific Northwest.

"I work three days a week, which gives me four days a week to enjoy life," he said. "The other three days, when you work your 12-hour shifts, you can focus and feel good about the job that you are doing.

"The best part is, when you walk out the door, you don't have emails to answer or clients who want reports or a boss breathing down your neck -- you're done. I can't speak highly enough of the career field. It was a good move."

Here, There, Everywhere

Born and raised in upstate New York, Colangelo moved to the Atlanta area when he was 17 years old. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in foreign languages and biology from Georgia State University in 1982.

"I got into the healthcare IT field when computers were just coming out in the late 80s and did that for most of my career," he said. "I got involved in IT when people didn't even know what email was.

"I implemented advanced imaging systems like the CAT scan and MRI and did some work in the consulting field. When I was young, I had the best ride. I went all over the United States, Canada and Europe working for a hospital information tech company."

Colangelo added a master's degree in radiological science from Midwestern State University in 2006. He worked as a software engineering manager for Intel Corporation for nearly eight years before switching over to nursing. Colangelo earned an associate degree in nursing from Santa Fe Community College in 2009. His first nursing job? Critical care RN at UNM.

"You have got to have the @BSN credential in nursing or it's like you didn't even go to school," he said. "I had a bachelor's degree, an associate degree and a master's degree -- all in sciences. When you apply for a job, if your degrees are not in nursing, you don't get credit for it. That's why I decided to invest in getting a BSN."

For an online RN to BSN program, Colangelo turned to UNM, where he also worked as an IT project manager.

"I worked for the university, so it was perfect for me," he said. "It was a great program that was very challenging. This is a very clear message: online does not equal easy. I have personally been responsible for recruiting close to 10 students to join the program. I meet them at work and say, 'Get your BSN, it's a great value.' That makes me feel really good."

Lobo Teamwork

Colangelo thoroughly enjoyed the emphasis on evidence-based practice and the collaborative nature of the online RN to BSN program that allowed him to interact with fellow UNM Lobos.

"UNM tries to foster a culture of inter-collaborative work," he said. "There were all of these virtual teams of students from all over the country. You do projects together; you write reports together; you do research together. That made it very interesting for me because I'd get bored otherwise. Even though it's online, that doesn't equal alone."

The flexibility and convenience of the program were ideal for Colangelo's schedule and laid-back lifestyle.

"When you do the video conferencing, it's so much easier," he said. "I remember when you used to have to drive to campus, find a parking spot, pay to park and rush to the classroom. Now, you go into your office and turn on your web cam.

"You can load up your work and collaborate with your cohorts very easily, and then you're done and you're home. We also had students who were at work and would go off into a conference room and have a collaborative meeting. The program is set up beautifully that way."

Colangelo's favorite course in the curriculum was NURS 405: Genetic Literacy Across the Lifespan.

"You learned so much about the human genome and how important that's going to be moving forward," he said. "Everything changes in medicine. Now that science has cracked the human genome, we're going to see custom antibiotics, custom chemotherapeutic agents. We're going to detect deformities in utero and be able to correct them. Nurses need to know more about genomics and genetics than ever before."

Another course that Colangelo enjoyed was NURS 406: Nursing in the Community.

"I liked the inclusiveness of our own community -- where we are, where we work, where we live, where we raise our kids," he said. "It's the study of how nurses fit into being active participants in the overall health of their communities."

Brain Function

Although Colangelo is a latecomer to nursing, he sees the long-term benefits of the online RN to BSN program at UNM for nurses in any stage of their careers.

"The capstone project is exciting," he said. "That's where you put into practice your first foray into research projects, leading a project, collaborating with managers and other nurses on the team for nurses who don't have any other managerial, project management or research experience.

"At the baccalaureate level, this is their first foray into it, so it's pretty exciting for most of them. I liked that. That applicability to nursing is there. It's dynamic. It's real. Just don't underestimate the difficulty of the program because it's online."

Colangelo's return to higher education caught his family and friends a bit by surprise.

"They said, 'You already have advanced degrees. Why do you want to do this?'" he said. "I heard, 'You will never make back the money,' but most of them were extremely supportive. They said, 'You can do this.'"

The proof is in the pudding. Colangelo landed his current job and moved to the Seattle area shortly after graduating from UNM. He still works in project management and as a consultant on healthcare IT projects in his free time, but he also makes time to run, swim and enjoy life.

"If you have the BSN, it absolutely opens doors," Colangelo said. "You can still be an associate-level RN, but it's possible to immediately get higher pay. Oftentimes, you get a bonus for signing up because you have the bachelor's degree. It's worth every hour and every dollar you invest. The returns are immediate."

Learn more about the UNM online RN to BSN program.

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