The University of Texas at Austin
  • From executive suite to nursing, student still wants to make a difference

    By Nancy Neff
    Nancy Neff
    Published: May 15, 2008

    O’Neill believes he can find the same intellectual stimulation with the complex medical field as he found with technology. He entered the School of Nursing Alternate Entry Master of Science Program, which provides a pathway for a student with a non-nursing baccalaureate degree to become a registered nurse and then obtain a master’s degree.

    “The program allows individuals with a diversity of backgrounds an entry into a very rewarding field,” O’Neill said. “And beyond the obvious gratification of delivering relief to someone in need, I also feel like there is a higher sense of calling with nursing.

    “The current shortage of health-care professionals and the decreasing affordability of medical insurance, present a very critical social need within the community. There is a compelling societal need, just as I believe there was with the advent of personal computing technology.”

    O’Neill first became attracted to the field of medicine and health after an experience on a sailing trip with his wife. He witnessed someone having a stroke and took notice of the prolonged time before the individual received care. Wanting to become trained in first aid, O’Neill enrolled in an emergency medical training course and then paramedic school. He still is a volunteer emergency medical services (EMS) paramedic at university football games.

    “As much as I enjoyed the EMS experience, the occasional long pauses between calls are difficult to endure,” he said. “I need to be active and busy. The constant flow and immediacy of the emergency room and triage were more to my liking.”

    O’Neill knows he is older than most of his fellow nursing students, but he’s used to that.

    “At 34 years old, I was older at Apple, too,” he said. “I’m used to being the grizzled senior, so that is no problem.”

    “It has always been important for me that there be a ‘for the sake of what’ associated with any opportunity that I pursued,” O’Neill said. “In nursing, I have felt again that ‘for the sake of what.’”

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