Even with more than 20 years of nursing experience, Gina Adair was apprehensive when she enrolled in the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program offered by the University of Texas at Arlington.
"I was very anxious and nervous about doing something online," Adair said. "It had been forever since I was in school. I had heard great things about UTA, so I took that first step. I'm glad I did."
Adair, who is nurse manager at Texas Health Southwest Hospital in Fort Worth, graduated from the online RN to BSN program in 2014. She also started the online Master of Science in Nursing in Education program.
"I've encouraged all of my nurses who are also very nervous and scared to enroll in the online RN to BSN program," she said. "They tend to go back more quickly these days because they realize they have to or need to, but they're still scared. After doing it myself, I said, 'Hey, if I can do it after all of these years, then you guys can do it.'"
Adair, who has lived in Fort Worth for 50 years, graduated with an Associate of Nursing from Tarrant County College in 1990.
"I had always known that earning a BSN was the professional thing to do," Adair said. "Back in 1990, there wasn't such a heavy emphasis on doing that. If you don't do it right after you finish your associate degree, life happens, you have children, you start working full time and it's very difficult to go back. It's difficult to make yourself go back -- especially when it wasn't pushed by others."
Once Adair was firmly established in a leadership position and her children were grown, the timing for a return to higher education was just right.
"Of course, it was becoming mandatory that nurses at the bedside have their BSN," she said. "Also in leadership, of course -- even striving for an MSN and beyond. I just knew it was time. I was ready."
The online format was ideal for Adair, who was on call 24/7 while she was enrolled in the program.
"That's what was nice," she said. "As a manager, I was working very often 10-hour days and bringing work home with me Monday through Friday. It was really pretty flexible as long as you were organized to know when all of the due dates for assignments were. Sometimes it would be a little heavy at the beginning of the week or a little heavy at the end of the week, depending on your schedule, but it was certainly flexible."
Adair spent an average of 12 to 20 hours per week on schoolwork during both the bachelor's degree program and the master's degree program.
"It's been almost a full year I've been out of the MSN program," she said. "I took the first three classes and had to stop for a while, which is also helpful. If you have a life event, you're able to stop and go back. I would never recommend taking off a year, but you can take a couple of months off. It's usually quite flexible with that, as well. I plan to go back soon."
Adair walked away from the online RN to BSN program with new knowledge she could apply to her nursing practice in a number of areas.
"There was a course about care of the elderly or aging adults (NURS 3325: Holistic Care of Older Adults) that was wonderful," she said. "I probably learned the most in that class and had the most takeaways I brought with me on the job. I also enjoyed health promotion (NURS 3335: RN to BSN Promoting Healthy Lifestyles). I enjoyed all of them really. I feel like I walked away with new knowledge in every single course I took."
Another aspect of the online format Adair particularly enjoyed was the virtual interaction with students from across the United States.
"It was really great because you got to see a different perspective of nursing in different communities and different states," she said.
Adair, who enjoys spending time with family and reading, was drawn to nursing from a very early age.
"You can sometimes change your mind about your career," she said. "I really didn't because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others was the thing I most felt called to do. I love the thought of being able to empower people to take care of themselves and inspire others to better health."
Adair has become an avid promoter of UTA's online nursing programs since becoming a Maverick.
"I encourage all of my staff who are considering nursing school to consider the BSN in the first place," Adair said. "Financially, a lot of them want to start with their associate so they can at least start making better money than they can by being a nursing assistant. I say, 'Okay, but if you do it, immediately go right back in. With all of these online classes, there's really no reason not to do it.'"
She also tells the nurses who heed her advice and enroll at UTA what they will need to be successful.
"Be organized. Plan. Pay attention to details. Participate in the discussion boards," she said. "I think at the beginning I did not see the value in the discussion boards. Quite honestly, I felt like it was busy work in my first two or three classes. After that, I saw it really does help you be more well-rounded and learn other perspectives. It really helps you grow professionally. I would say be open-minded to that."
Having a support system made up of friends and family also helps considerably.
"I have a lot of nurses who are going back to get their BSN from UTA online, and they have small children and work part time or full time," she said. "You have to have a supportive family to be successful. It really matters. My children were older teenagers or in college coming back and forth when I was in the BSN program. In fact, I was in college at the same time as one of my sons."
Even though she did not attend the graduation ceremony, Adair is glad that UTA came into her life. So much so that she will soon have two degrees to hang on her office wall.
"I'm very proud to have gone there," Adair said. "When I go to nursing fairs and see UTA, I say, 'Yay!'"Learn more about the UTA online nursing programs.
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