Former Photojournalist, Now RN, Works at Seton Hill While Earning B.S. in Nursing
Eric Schmadel is a registered nurse, who works in Health Services at Seton Hill University. He is also earning his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through Seton Hill’s online bachelor’s and certificates program. Nursing is Eric’s second career; he worked as a photojournalist at the Tribune-Review in Greensburg for 15 years before deciding to follow a new career path. We talked to Eric about his experience both working and studying at Seton Hill, as well as his passion for photography.
Can you tell me more about your previous career in photography?
I was studying psychology and bouncing from place to place early in my college career when I discovered that I had a knack for taking photos that weren’t too bad. I became the photography editor at the student newspaper at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, I worked for several years at the Indiana Gazette and then 15 years at the Tribune-Review.
Why did you decide to pivot from photojournalism to healthcare?
I went into healthcare because I want to help make a difference in the lives of my neighbors. While I often felt helpful as a photojournalist working on stories that shined a light on injustice, the repeated tragedy became a little overwhelming. When I would cover a house fire or a car crash, I began to feel like I wasn’t being helpful, and I decided to take a different path. I thought with nursing I could change lives, and I knew that it was a career where I would always be able to find a job. That was not always the case in a highly specialized field like photojournalism.
Why did you choose Seton Hill’s online degree program?
I chose Seton Hill to further my education in nursing because it’s close to home. While most of my BSN classes are online, it’s nice to know that I can stop in and talk to my faculty or go to a professor's office to discuss any questions I may have. I became a registered nurse with an associate’s degree through Westmoreland County Community College. The program there was excellent and they prepared me adequately to start working right away with the technical skills that I needed to know. The BSN program at Seton Hill has really built upon that education.
"What we learn in class directly translates to my job in Health Services. Patient safety, quality control, research and the ability to evaluate research to implement best practices are part of our daily work flow, particularly during this pandemic when information comes to us so quickly and from so many sources."
How has the BSN program built upon your associate’s degree?
There are concepts that you gloss over in an associate’s degree or diploma program. Things like research, ethics, and evidence-based practice are touched upon, but they’re really explored in-depth during BSN education. These concepts sometimes seem abstract when you’re working as an RN without a BSN. These, along with the liberal arts classes required for a bachelor’s degree at Seton Hill, are what makes you a more well-rounded nurse. On top of that, research shows that baccalaureate-educated nurses have better patient outcomes and practice better patient safety measures. This improves the quality of health care for us all. That’s not to say that a nurse without a BSN is not a good nurse, but with the degree comes education about the “intangibles” of nursing.
What’s it like earning your degree through an online program - especially as someone who had already been in the job force for over a decade?
I can’t lie, taking classes online has been a bit of a challenge for me. I’m a little older and less tech-savvy than most of my peers. The faculty and staff at Seton Hill have been wonderful and very accommodating whenever I have questions. With that being said, I’m getting better at navigating the online program. I find that if I can dedicate at least an hour per day for each class, everything goes smoothly. I could probably get away with doing less, but the courses are interesting to me, which makes it easier to dedicate that time.
Can you tell me more about your experience working with Health Services? How does it enhance what you learn in the classroom?
Working here in Health Services at Seton Hill is actually a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to work in an academic environment and being here to help keep our community safe and healthy is a humbling responsibility and I’m honored. It doesn’t hurt that we have some of the best students I’ve ever met and the campus is just beautiful. It’s invigorating to be here. What we learn in class directly translates to my job in Health Services. Patient safety, quality control, research and the ability to evaluate research to implement best practices are part of our daily work flow, particularly during this pandemic when information comes to us so quickly and from so many sources.
What is your ultimate career goal and how do you think an education at Seton Hill will help prepare you for that?
My ultimate career goal is to have a career that allows for a healthy balance of work and home life. It sounds simple to say, but that should be everyone's career goal. We are all more than our jobs. I can safely say I feel blessed because helping my community, whether that be Seton Hill, Westmoreland County, or the world, is also a career goal for me. My Seton Hill education is more than just classroom education. I learn from every coworker, every student, and every patient I have the privilege to meet in Health Services. I’m thankful for that. I never want to stop learning, and being here really allows that to become a reality.