Helping people chart their career path and where they might fit in Ascension hospitals' need for compassionate and committed caregivers is a full-time job for Shaunda Rakestraw, who serves as a Nursing Center of Excellence career coach for Ascension Via Christi's Kansas hospitals and clinics.
"It starts with our onboarding of new associates, letting them know that I am here as a resource to help get started in making their desired career a reality," says Rakestraw.
"We go to school and often think just about nursing at the bedside, but there are so many opportunities out there, whether that's specializing in certain areas of bedside care, developing into a nurse leader or managing a practice."
Rakestraw doesn't just work with nurses who are entering the profession. She also works with nurses looking to expand their skills or further their education so that they can explore further opportunities.
"It can be a maze trying to find your way through the myriad of possibilities for nurses today,"says Rakestraw, who joined Ascension as an licensed practical nurse at what is now Ascension Medical Group Via Christi and eventually became a manager after earning her master's degree in Nursing. In December 2018, she moved to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, where she served as program coordinator for Cardiovascular Services. The following year, she was offered the newly created position of career coach.
"And here I am," she says.
Rakestraw's help in mapping out a nursing career isn't limited to Ascension Via Christi associates or nurses. She also works with students who are or planning to become certified nursing assistants.
That's paid off for the hospital because she's been able to help graduate nurses and others find their fit within Ascension Via Christi.
For example, she helped an EKG technician she knew from the clinic get into nursing school and connect a former clinic colleague with a palliative care opening who she knew would be the ideal candidate.
"It is a lot of fun seeing other people succeed in their nursing career," says Rakestraw. "It certainly has supported me and provided multiple growth opportunities over the past 25 years."