RN and Donna O'Neill reading something together

Nurse finds Abington degree a game changer

Nurses say experienced and passionate faculty at Abington inspire them to improve patient care. The hospital where Donna O'Neill works adopted her capstone project into an educational piece for staff throughout the facility.
By: Regina Broscius
For Donna O'Neill, the Penn State Abington R.N. to BS degree program made her think about the nursing practice in new ways and inspired her to propose changes that improve patient care.

The cool, quiet hallways belie the struggles occurring inside the rooms of the inpatient hospice at Holy Redeemer Hospital. Donna O'Neill works on the unit as a registered nurse and she easily verbalizes her passion for working with patients on their final journey.

"I have the privilege of working with patients to help them maintain dignity, comfort and quality of life," O'Neill said. "My promise is to treat them as a whole person, to be open and honest with families, and to understand the awesome responsibility in my hands."


Nurse Donna standing by the intake desk at a hospital

Nurse Donna O'Neill said the Abington nursing instructors "make you stop to reflect, think and plan courses of action."

Credit: Pam Brobst

O’Neill recently experienced a game changer in caring for her patients and for her career. While enrolled in the RN to B.S. degree program at Penn State Abington, she became captivated by evidence-based practice and research.

"My education at Abington led me to ask questions, think differently, and pulled me toward research so I can change the care we give for the better. I was able to unite my education with real-world experiences. It brought the classroom to life." — Donna O'Neill

O'Neill developed an educational brochure, as an outgrowth of a required capstone course at Abington, that spells out the curative, palliative and hospice care options. The reference piece she created has been adopted for use by nurses throughout the Montgomery County hospital.

“They are not just options for the terminally ill when nothing else can be done," she explained. "They need to be integrated throughout the continuum of care for those entering the final phase of a predictable, progressive terminal illness.”

As a mother of four who works full-time evenings, she initially was unhappy about the new requirement to earn her bachelor's degree. But the experience has clearly changed her mindset. 

"The faculty at Abington helped me realize and appreciate the more academic and professional aspects of nursing, including communication, leadership, research, theory and critical thinking. Abington's curriculum inspired me to use my new knowledge in my everyday practice." — Donna O'Neill

O’Neill applauded Abington and its RN to B.S. coordinator, Brenda Holtzer, as “strong, vibrant forces for good in the community." 


Donna O'Neill in front of tree outside of the Athletics Building

Donna O'Neill's accomplishments in the bachelor's degree program at Abington led the Penn State College of Nursing to choose her as a student marshal in its commencement ceremony. 

Credit: Dan Z. Johnson

About the R.N. to BS Degree

With the state and nationally accredited Penn State Nursing (RN to B.S.) Degree Program at Abington, students enhance their career and are prepared to meet the latest changes in health care.

It features flexible evening classes with web-based learning plus face-to-face classroom meeting dates.