Deciding to earn a BSN took a lot of thought for Kate E. Nelson, but she's glad she made the choice.
Nelson ultimately decided to enroll in the University of New Mexico (UNM) Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program to tap into the world of options available to nurses.
"I started nursing in 2011, did critical care work for two years, and transitioned into doing community-based hospice work about six-and-a-half years ago," she said. "I was encouraged to return to school to open the opportunities I have in the field. I was interested in being able to do more than I felt like I was prepared to do with the associate degree."
The New Mexico native finished the program at the end of August 2019, and she couldn't be happier with the skills she has developed through UNM's online program.
"Honestly, it's the only way it would work for my life and my schedule," Nelson said. "The online program that UNM offers has been a godsend. It has allowed flexibility in my schedule so I can keep working and continue to do my studies efficiently and effectively."
While Nelson is excited about where her BSN will take her in the future, she is thrilled to report that she has already seen the effectiveness of the program in her current job.
"It's been fantastic," she said. "It's been a wonderful experience for me."
Keeping It Local
Nelson does hospice work in the Santa Fe area through Ambercare, so when she decided to go back to school online, she didn't want distance to be an issue.
"I was born and raised in Santa Fe, and UNM Online was appealing for me because I knew that I could have a connection to the university if I needed it in person," she said. "In fact, there were a couple of occasions where I needed to connect or collaborate with professors in person, but it would have been hard for me to commute to do the same kind of coursework that I was able to do online."
After doing extensive research on the many online RN to BSN program options available, Nelson concluded that it was better to stay local, not only for reasons of distance, but also to keep her tuition money in the community.
"I saw what kinds of opportunities or possibilities were open to me across the country," she said, "but I felt good about giving my money to a state university that I am near."
Spending four to five hours a day on her studies, Nelson found a balance between her online coursework and her nursing work, and she says that her family and friends are glad to see her making moves to advance her career.
"They're really pleased," she said. "They're excited about what might be in the future for me, and they're excited and delighted that I've decided to do it."
Putting It Into Practice
Nelson knew she had made the right decision when she saw her research and management classes help her become a more self-sufficient nurse.
"One of my favorite classes was Research and Evidence-Based Practice [NURS 404], which helped us break down and understand different approaches to doing medical research, and ways of effectively finding our way through all of the information that is out there to identify reliable and well-designed studies to be able to inform our practice," she said.
Feeling more independent in her nursing practice, Nelson highlights the importance of knowing not just what to do, but why one should do it.
"It lends a deeper quality to nursing practice to be able to identify questions about certain long-held practices or instructions we are being given on the job and to be able to do our own research and consider the background on why we're being told what to do — being able to discern appropriate interventions and evidence-based practice instead of just following instructions," she said.
For Nelson, NURS 408: Leadership and Management stood out for its exceptional and immediate applicability in her workplace.
"Interpersonal dynamics between staff and management are always there, and sometimes, the dynamics are easier than others," she said. "But the course encourages a kind of independence and responsibility. Instead of complaining about a system that doesn't necessarily work or could be more efficient, it encourages each individual nurse to take responsibility for their own practice, their own work, and their own work environment, and try to make it as good as it can be."
Seeing the practical application of her education helped her feel more confident about her decision to pursue her BSN in the first place.
Taking the Leap
For Nelson, finding the right motivation to pursue a BSN came with knowing that such a pursuit would breathe new life into her career.
"There was a lot of deliberation that I went through because it's hard to find the incentive to get the bachelor's degree when you already have a registered nurse's license," she said of the beginning stages of the decision-making process.
When Nelson finally decided to set forth on her journey, she found that BSN-prepared nurses have a limitless number of destinations to choose from.
"It's worth it to take the leap," she said. "You never know where you're going to land or where it's going to take you, but it's worth having some more options, brighter horizons. It brings hope and light into the practice."
And it is that new sense of hope and light that kept Nelson going in the final steps of the program, as it shines on whatever destination she chooses.
"Nursing can be tiring and disheartening sometimes because the work is challenging and the healthcare industry is fragmented. Spending some time to do this kind of education has opened my eyes to more possibilities," she said. "Instead of feeling disappointed or exhausted, I feel excited and hopeful for the future."
Learn more about the UNM online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.