From IT Department to Nursing School

May 10, 2017

Mikki Denson has taken a different path to nursing. Prior to enrolling in the Master’s Entry in Nursing for Non-Nurses program in the Rush University College of Nursing, he worked for nearly 20 years in information technology as a project manager, first for Blue Cross Blue Shield, which brought him to Chicago, and then as a consultant.

But a childhood experience in his native Mississippi sparked an early interest in health care, and that flame never went out.

Today, Denson, 40, is bringing this experience to his studies and his work as co-chair of the Rush University Student Senate in order to make a difference in the lives of patients and students after he graduates.

We had a chance to catch up with Denson and talk about his story.

You took a non-traditional path to nursing school. How did it develop?

Mikki Denson: I graduated high school at 17, and I started at Florida Community College at Jacksonville. I finished up and then I went to a historically black college, Edward Waters College, and I got my bachelor’s degree there in organizational management. I went on to get my MBA from Jacksonville University.

I got to a point in my career where I was ready to leave Jacksonville. I transferred to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in Chicago and worked there for a couple of years. I became a consultant, and I did that for quite a few years, and then I decided I’m done with project management; I’m done with information technology; and I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. I decided it was time to go back to school.

What drew you to nursing? Was the interest always there through your previous career?

It’s been there for a very, very long time. I remember my first time at a doctor’s office, the person who took care of me — who made me feel good, who made me feel like the shot wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be — was a nurse. And I always looked forward to going to the doctor to see the nurse. From that very young age I said, “This is what I want to be.”

I get to see people in a very vulnerable state in their life. Who better to provide their care than someone who has always dreamed of being that person who can hold your hand and help you get through those problems?

What attracted you to Rush University?

It’s here in Chicago. It’s home. And it has been absolutely the right choice for me.

Rush is a leader in neurosurgery and neurosciences, and I actually want to be a neuroscience critical care nurse. I said this is a great fit because of my interests. I’m an IT guy; I like the brain. It was the right marriage.

How has your experience been in the Rush University Student Senate?

I’ve come back to school with a different perspective. Initially when I first went to [college] I was a student; I was there to learn. Now I view myself as a partner in this learning process, and I wanted to be in student senate simply because I think students have a right to have a voice in this learning process that they must go through for two to five years. Student senate allows me the opportunity to be not only a voice for myself, but be a representative voice from the student body to influence change here on campus.

Rush has been so good to the student body. We don’t have a lot of complaints. But what we do have are some ideas on how things can continue to get better, continue to grow, and we want to leave a very good legacy here so that the students who matriculate after us have an even better experience than what we’re having now.

You mentioned critical care nursing. What would you like to do after you graduate?

I am a minority student here at Rush, and I always look at things from the perspective of what difference can I make in health care, not just at the bedside. I would like to come back to Rush one more time and pursue a doctorate so I can prepare myself to be in the classroom teaching future nurse leaders for tomorrow. Because at some point someone has to take care of me, and I want to make sure that that person taking care of me is well prepared, understands the diverse climate that we live in and is able to take care of everyone no matter what our backgrounds are.