Iris Andrade has reached the end of her journey toward a BSN degree, but that doesn't mean she's done learning.
The single mother of two, Jadiel (8) and Javier (3), is now considering the next level after graduating from the UTA online RN to BSN program in May 2019.
"I'm definitely thinking about the MSN," she said. "Maybe the nurse practitioner degree. Most likely at UTA."
Andrade's experience in the UTA program has helped her build her nursing practice and see future possibilities even beyond the BSN.
"Getting a BSN was my ultimate goal, to begin with, for my nursing career," she said of her reasoning to return to school. "I know that a lot of the hospitals are wanting it, requesting it, of their nurses. Some hospitals give you a time frame to finish within the next two years. And then obviously if I wanted to advance in my career, maybe to nurse practitioner, I had to start with a BSN. Some other advanced positions also require you to be a bachelor's-degree nurse."
Start of the Course
Andrade, who works as a radiation oncology nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, began her nursing career after earning her associate degree in nursing from El Centro Community College in 2011. Because she already knew she wanted a BSN degree, she enrolled in UTA's online bridge program in 2012.
"I did a few classes, then life happened and motherhood kicked in. I had to put school on pause, but I resumed in fall of 2018," she said.
Despite some early reservations about enrolling in a fully online program, Andrade thrived on being able to complete coursework around her work and family schedule.
"I had never taken online courses before, so I was kinda like, 'Oh, I don't know if I can do this,'" she said. "But it turned out to be awesome with my work schedule. It might not have worked out well if I had to miss time at work to go to class."
A Better Nurse
Even though Andrade had nearly a decade of healthcare experience before re-enrolling in the RN to BSN online program in 2018, she still learned much from the program.
"The nursing research course [NURS 4325] was great," she said. "I think it helped me, especially in the oncology world. The whole understanding of the research and reviewing it and analyzing it is necessary in oncology. I really enjoyed that class."
She also benefited from a new special topics elective called Human Factors in Healthcare (NURS 3347).
"It was information that I could actually use in my practice," she said. "It focuses on the human factor and how it impacts patients' safety. It was healthcare and nursing care. I gained a lot of knowledge from that course."
Andrade, who started her healthcare career as a patient care technician, has been with Texas Health Resources (THR) for 12 years. She says that the education she gained at UTA has helped make her a better nurse, though she was a bit skeptical that it really would at first.
"I read it before and didn't believe it, but earning a BSN truly makes you more of a competent and confident nurse. You're assured," she said. "One of the other courses is leadership, and in it, you realize how much you are already a leader without carrying that title, but I think each course gives you more of a boost in your nursing career."
As a working nurse and mother of two, Andrade appreciated the flexibility of the online RN to BSN program. She enjoyed not only the convenience aspect of online education, but also the opportunities to learn from and share with her online classmates.
"I was able to connect with other students in the program through the discussion boards," she said. "If a student wrote about being an oncology nurse, I could connect with that student and each week I'd see their name and be excited to hear from them. You definitely learn from others through the discussion boards."
Of course, Andrade learned from her professors as well. She liked the video presentations and lectures as well as the discussion boards.
"In the nursing research course, the professor did a set time on Sunday evenings for a live broadcast," Andrade explained. "It was fantastic. We would all just log in, interact, ask questions right then and there. That broadcast was also available for review at a later time. So the professor would record it and, if I forgot or had to logout early, I could always go back to it. If for any reason I couldn't get to it that night, I could always see it the next day, which I thought was very cool."
In addition, Andrade received ample support at home. Her mother helped take care of the boys so she could focus on her studies. She offers some advice for those considering the online RN to BSN program at UTA:
"I highly encourage you to do it. If you have the motivation for it, go for it. It doesn't mean it's going to be easy, but if you're motivated and committed then you're going to succeed."
Learn more about the UTA online RN to BSN program.
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