Natalie Gommel has never been afraid of hard work. The Ohio native was more than eager to help out at her parents’ grocery store as soon as she turned 13, and the idea of working with people when she neared adulthood always seemed a natural fit. “When I graduated high school, I started working at a nursing home, and I absolutely loved it,” says Natalie. Quickly, however, Natalie knew she wanted to expand her scope and contribute more. That inspired her to research nursing schools in Ohio.
BSN Graduate in 1994
After a year of classes at Cleveland State University, Natalie transferred into the BSN program at the University of Cincinnati. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1994, then began her career, moving around the country. She started in cardiac telemetry and peritoneal dialysis. “Everything I did involved patient education, and I really enjoyed that,” she says. “I like breaking down difficult terms to make them understandable. I like seeing that light bulb turn on for people and giving them the reasoning behind things.”
Over the next several years, Natalie worked in outpatient hemodialysis, long-term care, telemetry, stroke and overflow medical-surgical. Starting in 2010, she began working as a nurse educator at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, working with kidney disease patients. That led her to Fresenius, a dialysis company, from 2011 to 2014.
Recruited for a New Position
In 2014, Natalie joined the Cleveland-based University Hospitals (UH) system, working in a brand-new chronic kidney disease navigator position with Geauga Medical Center. “I taught classes to the community, staff and patients about everything from chronic kidney disease to hypertension to stress management,” she says.
The year 2018 brought a new professional challenge. Natalie was recruited to take on the infection preventionist job at UH Geauga Medical. She decided to earn a master’s degree and started in the MSN program at Kent State University locally. “The colleague of mine was teaching online, and encouraged me to lay the groundwork to do that too,” she says. “To me, it seemed like a way to give back to the profession by working with up-and-coming nurses.”
Disrupted by the Pandemic
But when COVID-19 upturned the world in early 2020, Natalie–the only infection preventionist in her hospital—struggled to keep up with school and her busy job. She set aside school in summer 2020 and researched 100% online alternatives. “I found American Sentinel’s MSN Infection Prevention,” she says. “American Sentinel took my transfer credits and did not require the traditional clinical experience and it was really just a great situation with a rare specialization in the area I was already working.”
Expanding Her Experience
In December 2020, Natalie also started working at Cleveland Clinic as an infection preventionist. She completed the MSN Infection Prevention and Control in August 2021, which opened up even more doors. Natalie began an online teaching assistant position for RN to BSN students at Ohio University in fall 2021 and was hired as the clinical educator at UH Geauga Medical in January 2022.
“I love infection prevention and control, but I’m also excited to try new things and expand my skills,” she says. Natalie has enjoyed her progressive positions at UH and attending American Sentinel so much that she’s planning to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice Professional Leadership at American Sentinel. She’ll start in February 2022.
“During the pandemic, I was suddenly in a leadership position, sitting at the table with other leaders trying to figure everything out,” she says. The DNP will strengthen her resume and offer options. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I think these degrees will help me open up a world of possibilities.”