Monique Summers is making up for lost time in her nursing practice.
After working in the ministry with her husband, Alex, and as an executive administrative assistant, Summers was eager to do something different. Summers changed her career trajectory after taking a career aptitude test at a workforce center.
"The lady I spoke to there said, 'Monique, being a doctor is at the top of your list, but nursing is on your list, too. Why don't you do that?' I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer when I was younger, but I felt like I was too old to be a doctor and didn't have the finances to go that route."
So, Summers parlayed her administrative assistant experience to the healthcare field by taking a job as a unit secretary in a hospital intensive care unit.
"I shared with the nurses there that I was interested in becoming a nurse," she said. "When I completed all of my work at night, they let me come in and help them. That started the bug, and I realized I would rather do nursing than anything else. I was looking for direction in my career."
Summers, who was born and raised in Texas, took said direction and ran with it. She graduated from the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at the University of New Mexico in May 2018, a little more than one year after graduating from San Juan College with an associate degree in nursing.
"When I first started the online RN to BSN program, I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I was a school nurse at Central Consolidated School District at the time, which was my first job out of nursing school.
"I don't think anything prepares you for being a nurse, but the classes I was taking online helped me in my day-to-day job. A lot of the program focuses on leadership. As a school nurse, I had health aides I was delegating work to. I was also working closely with and providing information to parents. It was definitely valuable."
Summers chose UNM because she wanted a school with a strong reputation across the country -- especially because she hopes to enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
"The biggest thing was that because of all of the research that UNM does, if I ask someone from outside of the state, it is the only school they are familiar with," she said. "I wanted people to be able to recognize the school and not say, 'Where did you go to school?'"
The research element of the program was especially applicable to her job. It will also carry over to her new position as a registered nurse in the Maternal Child Health department at Indian Health Service Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico.
"Although I learned some research skills with my associate degree, this was much more in depth," Summers said. "There was also more of a focus on community health in the RN to BSN program. That helped me more than anything because I was in a community health setting. I was able to go through and use various tools they were giving me. It almost felt like it was a step by step.
"Because I knew more tools, I could expand on different things, provide more training for the staff under me and have more skills available to me for the student populations I had throughout the district. I was also able to grow within myself and be able to feel like I could perform my job at a higher level."
NURS 409 Health Policy, Economics & Systems with Nuzhat Ali was her favorite course in the online RN to BSN curriculum.
"That course encourages you to see how politics and nursing cross," she said. "We have to pay attention to how those things affect one another, and we can't be silent. I like the way that the entire program is set up. When I viewed the classes, they were all of interest to me."
Right on Time
The flexibility of the program worked well for Summers, especially since she changed jobs after the 2017-18 school year. She worked at Basin Home Health in Farmington, New Mexico, for a few months before landing her new job.
"It was wonderful," she said. "My current schedule is wild, but also kind of set. My schedule when I was a school nurse was a set schedule, so it was perfect while I was completing the RN to BSN program. It was definitely flexible. I could work on my assignments during the evenings, although sometimes I had emergencies with my students."
That flexibility was also important when she and her husband dealt with some tough issues. Through working in the ministry, they were often assigned to work on reservations and in different native villages.
"We encountered a lot of mental health issues in the student population," Summers said. "In fact, we had two suicides. When I needed to get a little bit of an extension because of the situation, the professors worked with me. Fortunately, they were really very helpful and truly want you to excel and learn."
Now that Summers has her bachelor's degree, she has her sights set on enrolling in a DNP program at either Vanderbilt or Johns Hopkins.
"My friends and family are also hugely supportive," she said. "Everyone's cheering me on as I keep going in school. I'm also the first person in my immediate family to earn a college degree, which adds a lot to it."
Most of all, Summers knows nursing was where she belonged all along. The online RN to BSN program at UNM prepared her to work toward her ultimate career goal.
"You get out of the program what you put into it," she said. "It's also important to make connections with the people who are in your online classes because those are valuable resources. You'll have to make connections with other nurses. The biggest thing is to realize it's a daily commitment of your time, but it's worth every moment of it."
Learn more about the UNM online RN to BSN program.
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