Alumni Spotlight: The Daily Choice to Lead

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Drew Petersen

“I could never have imagined the path I would follow during these last five years and the joy and growth that I have experienced,” said Drew Petersen, 2015 BJU nursing graduate.

Growing up, Petersen was constantly exposed to nursing and its philosophy of helping others. His mother — Dr. Valarie Petersen of the BJU nursing faculty — inspired him by her example. His father emphasized a Christian’s responsibility to help the poor, widows and orphans. And he personally cared for his grandfather, who lived with them for a number of years. Petersen said, “Helping him in his last few years sparked a passion for those who cannot help themselves. I think these three things combined pushed me to pursue a degree in nursing.”

While at BJU, Petersen developed interest in many aspects of nursing. He said, “As my class progressed through our program, every new subject we learned seemed to be the one I wanted to pursue. During our pediatric rotation, I wanted to work with kids; during psych I felt that I would definitely work there; and I even considered labor and delivery after going through our mom-baby rotation.”

Choosing a unit can be a challenge. He explained, “Once you pass the NCLEX, the possibilities are endless, and … with the multitude of options, most new grad RNs feel paralyzed.”

After applying for several nursing positions in the area, Petersen joined the supplemental staffing team at Greenville Memorial Hospital. Not only could he float to any of the eight hospitals in the Greenville Health System — now part of Prisma Health — but he could also experience many different units. He has since been on over 30 different nursing units, including medical/surgical, oncology, pulmonary, neuroscience and transitional care units. He was also oriented to the intensive care units. “I cannot stress enough how much I loved my first few years of nursing as a float nurse — except for working the night shift,” he said.

Pursuing Leadership

“As I worked within my department, I always looked for ways to get involved beyond my base level commitment,” said Petersen. For example, he joined the professional practice council to collaborate with other registered nurses on improving patients’ care and nurses’ experience at Prisma Heath.

“If you are willing to be involved in many different things,” he said, “eventually more is asked of you, and in the last few months of 2018, one of my supervisors began asking me to apply for an open (assistant nurse manager) position.” He began the new duties in January 2019.

As assistant nurse manager in IRP (internal resource pool), Petersen has leadership responsibilities. “My role … has changed dramatically over the past 18 months,” he said, “but my duties essentially include hiring, orientation, maintaining regulatory compliance for our team members, and managing (about) 100 direct reports. We supply nursing and support staff, as well as patient observers to the nursing units of … Prisma Health.”

To help him better fill his new position, Petersen applied for his master’s in nursing administration with a focus on executive leadership. He began the program the same day he transitioned to his new role and plans to finish in May 2021.

National League for Nursing LEAD Program

Not long after applying for the new job and degree, Petersen also applied for the January 2020 – December 2020 cohort of the National League for Nursing LEAD program, which is designed for any nurse who has begun a leadership position. “Most of the members of the cohort are professors at universities who are seeking to learn skills to help adjust to leadership roles,” he explained.

To his surprise, Petersen was accepted into the program. “After reviewing the candidates from 2019, I felt that there was no chance I would be accepted (since) my credentials and experience do not justify it,” he said. “Many of my peers have already achieved in their careers what I hope to someday achieve, so needless to say I thought I was applying to get experience in handling rejection.

“The National League for Nursing is one of the premier nursing organizations in the world, and to be a part of such an excellent group is a great privilege of mine. I cannot thank them enough for the opportunity to learn from the other participants.”

The program trains participants through avenues like group coaching calls, a webinar series and several conferences.

Choosing to Lead

God has prepared Petersen for his new position through the people and experiences in his life. He said, “(God has given) me role models such as my parents, (my instructor) Brad Reeder, my other nursing faculty at (BJU), my siblings and my sweet wife.

“(Additionally, BJU) has historically had a great reputation in the community for nursing excellence. The emphasis on writing has greatly helped me in my career, as much of my communication is now written. The focus on rigorous academics and integrity has pushed me in my career to always learn and pursue excellence.

“Leadership is something that each of us must develop over years. I did not become a leader when I took an assistant nurse manager job. Each day of my life I can either choose to lead or follow.

“Many of my strengths as a leader have their roots in pursuing things outside of my grasp at the time: speech and debate in high school, leadership in my society Alpha Omega Delta — Rah Rah Rah — (and) being involved in the lives of those around me. Conversely, I can trace all of my weaknesses to habits that were built up day by day as well: neglecting what is important, avoiding painful but necessary conversations and losing focus on why I exist. …

“I am by no means a great leader, and I fail more often than I succeed — especially as we endure the continuing storm (of) COVID-19 — but with continual effort and certainly the Lord’s help, someday I hope to call myself a leader.”