Like many little girls, Doris Blacksher loved playing with dolls. It was how she played those dolls that eventually led to a successful career.
"I think I operated on all of my dolls," she said. "They all had fevers. They were also my students. I was either going to be a nurse, a model or a beautician. Nursing really stuck with me."
Blacksher, a charge nurse at Arlington Memorial Hospital, is enrolled in the online Master of Science in Nursing in Education program at UTA. She graduated from the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in 2017.
"In order for our hospital to keep our Magnet status, we have to have a certain percentage of nurses with BSNs," Blacksher said. "I said, 'Hey, I've always wanted to get my bachelor's degree, and I have all of my basic classes done. Why not?' I knew one day I would go to UTA."
Blacksher was the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree; the master's degree will be her fifth. She also graduated with an Associate of Arts from Tarrant County College in 1996, an LVN degree from John Peter Smith Institute, and an Associate of Nursing from Lamar State College Port Arthur in 2014.
"I would like to go into nursing education after I get my master's," Blacksher said. "I want everything done right. I want it done by the book and exactly how it's supposed to be done. I want to teach at the university level or some other type of nursing education."
Teaching would allow her to fuel two of her passions at once — nursing and education.
"When I am not going to school, I don't know what to do with myself," she said. "By staying in education, I get to help other people and continue to learn, as well. That's what encouraged me to go back and get my master's degree. My family is very supportive."
The flexibility and convenience of the online format allowed Blacksher to balance a return to higher education with the rest of the demands of her life.
"My manager played a big part in it, because I couldn't work full-time and go to school without the way that I'm scheduled at work," she said. "My family and the support of my manager have made it very comfortable for me to go back and get my master's degree."
Blacksher was extremely familiar with the nursing program at UTA, which was the primary reason she chose the university. All of the courses she took at neighboring Tarrant County College transferred to the RN to BSN program, so she only needed nursing courses to earn a degree.
"I did my research years ago," she said. "They made it a little bit easier for me when they came up with the online program. I wanted to go to UTA for my RN and BSN back then, but they didn't have this program at that time.
"Even though I researched other online nursing programs, this one was different because I was ready and knew I wanted to go there. UTA's nursing program is very popular and prestigious. I wanted to go somewhere that is really well-known in this area. That's UTA."
Even though her courses are online, Blacksher still likes the university's proximity.
"I enjoyed the program greatly," she said. "I have really enjoyed UTA being here in the same city because I was able to communicate with everybody. Communicating with email was great — I didn't have any problems. If I did, I knew the university was close. "
NURS 4455: Nursing Leadership & Management is the course Blacksher enjoyed the most in the online RN to BSN program.
"It enlightened me to everything my managers, supervisors and directors go through," she said. "I see the big picture of how things function for people up top. I see how it works for them and how they get to where they are. Now, I see why a lot of things are the way they are. Being enlightened and seeing how leadership works really helped a lot. It's a totally different perspective, and I love it."
But, did the online RN to BSN program curriculum really make Blacksher a better nurse?
"Oh, my gosh, yes — 110 percent," she said. "Now, I am not only a staff nurse, I'm a charge nurse. I'm a preceptor. I'm a mentor. My degree helped with all of that — especially with the leadership."
Blacksher was so pleased with the results that she recommended the online RN to BSN program to two of her friends. Both are now enrolled at UTA.
"I told them, 'Make sure that you're ready for the program,'" she said. "Have everything in order — your job, your family, your house. Your main focus is going back to school and having at least 15-20 hours a week you're going to put into it. Being prepared is the biggest thing."
Blacksher and her husband, Dwight, spend their free time travelling. Their youngest child, Colby (18), lives with them and is attending Tarrant County College. They also have a daughter, Brittany (28) and another son, Corey (25).
"I think I influenced Colby some to go to college," she said. "We talk about it quite a bit. I think his main focus is to eventually go to a university — probably UTA. When we were talking about school, I explained that you don't have to start out at a university. There can be a whole lot of different reasons why. Starting out small and working your way there benefited me greatly. I think he'll do great."
In addition to walking the stage for graduation, which Blacksher said was "awesome," she has already seen the bachelor's degree create opportunities.
"I'm a Magnet Champion, so I had the opportunity to attend the Magnet Conference two years in a row, and I have already been offered positions in education to be an instructor with my bachelor's degree," she said. "I had to turn them down, but I told them to keep me in mind. My load right now is a little heavy."
It's a good thing her childhood dolls always felt so under the weather.
Learn about UTA's online nursing programs.
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