Kari Koster

Psychiatric Nurse Practicioner at Benchmark Psychiatric

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RMU made it possible for me to do what I always wanted to do – while having kids in junior high and high school.

Deciding on a career path is not an easy task and often involves turning around in order to find the best route to success. Such was the story for Kari Kostner, a Robert Morris University alumna. Kostner majored in Business and Accounting at Governors State University, where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in 1987. She decided to return to school to follow her passion of Nursing at the RMU Chicago campus and completed her Associate of Applied Science Degree in Nursing in July of 2009. Kostner went on to complete her Master of Science in Nursing at Rush University in 2014. Currently, she holds a position of Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at Benchmark Psychiatric.

Kostner always wanted to be a nurse. When she realized that she could not find happiness in the business world, Kostner decided to leave her BBA degree behind and pursue her real passion. Being a mother of four meant that a traditional university was not an option for her nursing education. Kostner chose RMU for its flexible and accelerated programs. “RMU made it possible for me to do what I always wanted to do – while having kids in junior high and high school,” she reflects. The lack of breaks was often tough on Kostner, but instead of giving up, she kept pushing herself to make progress.  

After completing her education at RMU, Kostner decided to keep learning about her industry and career. She decided to continue her studies as a nurse, which she viewed as a much more holistic process than being a doctor. The challenging course work of the RMU nursing curriculum fully prepared her to apply and be selected as one of the students at Rush. Completing her MSN in the highly competitive program at Rush is seen by Kostner as one of her biggest accomplishments. “RMU really helped me to improve my self-confidence and enabled me to apply at Rush even though that was such a highly selective school,“ explains Kostner.

In her current position, Kostner has the ability to make a real impact on people’s lives. She travels to all types of locations, such as nursing home facilities, family counseling services, and outpatient mental health facilities. Not only does Kostner provide care for her patients, but her job duties also allow her to educate others on patients’ rights. Kostner did not plan on becoming a mental healthcare professional, but a unique opportunity changed her career path. “Be open to all kinds of possibilities. When I was in nursing school if you would have asked me if I was going into mental health nursing, I probably would have said no. But I received an opportunity to go work for a community mental health agency and I thought – I will give it a shot. As it turns out, I really love working with this population. If I were to be close-minded, I would not have learned this about myself,” she states.

Giving back to her patients is only the beginning to Kostner’s kind nature. Outside of work, she helps out at the Father of Christ Lutheran Church in Plainfield, where she plays piano every Sunday. She also provided gifts for a family in need through the Giving Tree organization. After graduating RMU, Kostner has continued to give back to her alma mater by teaching courses and volunteering as a guest speaker in classrooms. She has also assisted with the accreditation process of the Nursing Program at RMU, and has been a member of both the student and faculty panels. This January, Kostner will be the Keynote Speaker at the Nursing Pinning Ceremony.

Kostner has many plans for the future. She would like to go on for a doctorate degree, either a PhD or a DNP. She would also like to be certified in functional medicine. Her interests in how lifestyle, exercise, and nutrition affect mental health fuel her desire to have a voice in the research conducted to treat mental illness. Kostner also plans to continue teaching within her field of study.

Kari Kostner’s journey towards becoming a nursing professional is a great example of how being happy with one’s career involves following a passion. Even though she gave up one career for another, this pivotal change has helped her become her real self. She shares the following advice to aspiring and current nursing professionals striving to the top: “Keep learning. Advocate for your profession. Let our voices be heard and educate yourself to educate others.”