Retired veteran focuses career on helping others
After retiring from a 21-year career in the U.S. Army, City University of Seattle alumnus and current student John Neibert began looking for a way to help other veterans when an executive order signed by President Obama opened a door for him to become a mental health counselor.
“I’ve always been interested in psychology and sociology,” John said. “When the VA [opened positions for] certified peer counselors, I got one of the first ones under President Obama. The more I studied it and the more I did it, the more it came naturally.”
From his work as a peer counselor, John got involved with professional organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and in research.
“I’m involved in the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute as one of 20 research panelists that was granted $5 million by the National Institute of Mental Health for a five-year study on the correlation between opioids and pain management,” John said. “I also work with the Center to Improve Veteran Involvement and Care, which conducts research that empowers veterans to improve their health and become active participants in their healthcare.”
The volunteer work he is doing as a research panelist and as a board member of NAMI reinforces what he is currently learning in the Master of Science in Healthcare Administration program.
“It really falls in line with my degree because what I’m doing is what I will also be doing after I graduate: being part of committees and looking at data and reports to try and determine the best policies for healthcare,” John said. “It’s nice that it dovetails right into my studies.”
Balancing work, school and family
Prior to his career in mental health, John was in the Army and deployed several times overseas. While he was still active duty, he earned his bachelor’s degree at CityU.
“When I got my bachelor’s degree I was in the Army and was raising a family and working full time,” John said. “Education for working adults was still in its infancy, and not many schools offered programs that were on the weekends and at night, but CityU did. I enrolled and it worked with having a job and family.”
Years later as he was looking to further his career in mental health, he decided to continue his education.
“When I retired, I went to another school and was doing classes and it just seemed like a struggle, I wasn’t getting anything out of it,” John said. “I decided after a year to go to CityU and ask about their master’s programs, and the more I learned about the Master of Science in Healthcare Administration, the more I saw it was in line with what I wanted to do. Being an alumnus made it an even easier decision; so in August 2016 I started the program and doubled down on classes.”
With his schedule as a retiree and motivation to earn the degree, John has rapidly completed the coursework and will become CityU’s first Master of Science in Healthcare Administration graduate in June 2017.
“CityU really accommodates students who have the time and ability to go to school full time,” John said. “I am retired and my kids are grown up – I could do the program faster and on my own schedule. That was the nice thing about CityU that no one else offered.”
Asked what he would tell someone considering the degree, John said:
“First, I’d tell them to go to CityU. The second thing I’d tell them is to really try to figure out what they want to do. There are a lot of positions for healthcare administrators, there’s a big need for it, and if they don’t want to spend 18 years becoming a doctor this is the next best thing.”
Preparing for the future
As he looks ahead to graduation, John is happy with the skills and knowledge he’s gained.
“The curriculum is good and the courses are applicable to real life and all other aspects of volunteer work and being a board member and research assistant,” John said. “It all applies. It’s nice to know that I’m getting an education I’ll be able to use right away.”
In the future, he looks forward to continuing his work in healthcare.
“When people are having health or mental health issues it can be a very lonely place because they can’t see the way out to a better quality of life,” John said. “Having been where they’re at and able to see the other side, it’s nice to be able to share perspective and answer questions. It’s nice to be able to show them the answers and help them find a way to regain control of their lives.”