My son-in-law Brian likes to “lovingly” tell me that I will die taking online classes with a laptop on my over-bed table at the local skilled nursing facility! Possibly so, but as a nurse or any other health care professional, the day you stop seeking higher knowledge is the day you should retire.
I started out at the age of 18 as a nursing assistant in a skilled nursing facility. I was hungry and would do anything anyone would allow me to do. I checked blood sugars, checked for impactions, irrigated colostomies, and even passed out medications that the nurses had crushed and sat on the patient’s breakfast trays.
My next healthcare job was at a local hospital as a unit clerk on a pediatric unit. I worked nights, and the night supervisor knew I wanted to be a nurse so he made sure I was involved in anything going on that was interesting. I was able to watch autopsies, emergency surgeries, and babies being born.
Career advancement found in education
I wanted more, though, and in 1984, I started nursing school at a local community college.
My first job was on a surgery floor. From there I tried home health, then worked at a physical rehab hospital. It was at this job that I learned of a university from a neighboring town that offered ASN RN’s the opportunity to obtain their BSN for a very inexpensive price one night a week.
I was hooked.
That took about 2 years and a few months. “So, what’s next?” I thought. “Next” happens to be my Masters in Nursing from the University of Alabama. I am currently enrolled in graduate school and will earn that degree in August of 2012. And I still won’t be done.
Learn until you can learn no more…and then keep learning
My advice to younger nurses is to pursue higher education. Most classes can be attended online, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that makes it easy. You have to be self-motivated and organized. The curriculum is the same as it is for any student obtaining the same degree at any university anywhere in the United States. You can listen to the lecture and get the same notes or PowerPoint slides for studying purposes. The assignments are time-sensitive and if you slack off, it will cost you a letter grade…at least.
Older nurses, my advice isn’t any different to you – pursue higher education! The United States is starving for masters and doctorate prepared nurses who will educate the next generation. If you are reading this article, you are not too old!
Take me for example. At the age of 50, the long and windy road of my own education will take me across another graduation stage when I receive my MSN. Would it have been better if I’d gone straight to a 4-year university out of high school and then pursued a masters degree as a nurse practitioner? Of course!
I would have then enjoyed 20-plus years as a masters-prepared nurse. The last thing in the world I want right now is to enter school again, but I will not hesitate even one semester to go for my DNP in 2013. At least my son-in-law will have to call me Dr. Anderson when he visits me in the nursing home!