Plan B worked out pretty nicely for Kelsea Bice.
With an undergraduate degree in psychology and a lack of job opportunities in that field, Bice was at a career crossroads. Fortunately, Terri Lopez knew exactly which direction her daughter needed to take.
Bice explained, "My mother was an X-ray technician who has worked in healthcare her whole career. She said, 'I think you should go to nursing school.' Being the arrogant 23-year-old that I was at the time, I said, 'Sure. I've done college before. No big deal. It's a good job with good pay. Whatever, fine — I'll be a nurse.' I never considered it before that. When I started nursing school and got into what nursing is all about, I totally fell in love with it."
So much so that Bice will graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing in Nursing Administration with a certificate in nursing education from UTA's online degree program this year. She hopes to parlay the MSN with loads of experience in collegiate and professional organizations to move into a leadership role.
"I became really passionate about nursing professionalism and what we do as nurses away from the bedside, in terms of progressing the profession and advocating for ourselves," she said. "I didn't want to be in a clinical role forever. I love being a nurse, and I love taking care of patients. When I work in the emergency room, it is exciting and adventurous. My end goal for my career is to make it easier for nurses to do what they do best at the bedside. I can do all of the extraneous stuff away from the bedside."
Bice, a registered nurse in the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, is president elect of the Emergency Nurses Association Houston. She has also served as treasurer for that organization, vice president of the National Student Nurses' Association and president and special events coordinator of the Louisiana Association of Student Nurses.
"I've had some formal and informal professional leadership roles, even though I've never been a manager, a director or a charge nurse," she said. "I might not be able to talk about budgets in the same way someone who has been a manager for 10 years can, but I certainly have some experience managing people, managing teams and working with different entities."
Bice's initial foray into higher education took a dramatic turn before it even started. Less than a week after she moved to New Orleans and began gearing up for her freshman year at Tulane University, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Louisiana coast. The campus closed for the entire Fall semester just days after Bice moved into her dorm.
"If I was going to go somewhere that wasn't Tulane, I wanted it to be where I could live in a dorm and have as much of a college experience as possible," Bice said. "Texas A&M basically opened up their doors to university students in the New Orleans area and said, 'Show up. We'll take 500 of you. We'll take care of you.' It was really the best experience out of a bad experience that I could have had."
Bice attended Texas A&M for one semester before returning to New Orleans to complete her bachelor's degree at Tulane in 2009.
"I took a semester off for health reasons," Bice said. "When I came back, my academic counselor at Tulane said, 'Okay, what's your plan now?' We talked about it. She said, 'You talk about your psychology classes with a lot of excitement. Maybe you should major in psychology.' I said, 'Okay, fine.' My parents are very much, 'Do what you love. We'll support you.' But, I graduated, and there were no opportunities for me."
Bice, who finished high school in San Antonio, Texas after frequently relocating as part of a military family, remained in New Orleans to transition into nursing. Bice graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Holy Cross, her mother's undergraduate alma mater, in 2014.
The Next Step
In addition to Bice's organizational work, her hospital's Magnet status added fuel to her desire to earn a master's degree to become a nursing leader.
"I am really passionate about Magnet and what that means for nursing," she said. "Progressing my education is only going to progress my career further — especially with Magnet."
Although she had numerous options for an online MSN in Nursing Administration, Bice had one very solid primary reason for becoming a UTA Maverick.
"My mentor, Melanie Aluotto, went through the program at UTA," she said. "I met her when she was about halfway through, and she was really happy with the program. My goal, obviously, is to be just like her. That has been a really great outlet for support, and my parents are my biggest cheerleaders. They know I'm self-motivated, but they encourage me in whatever I want to do. As long as I'm happy, they're on board."
The flexibility of the fully online format was an additional big selling point.
"Oh my gosh, it's so convenient," she said. "One of the reasons I chose UTA in particular is I never have to go to campus for anything. This is my first time doing any online courses. I kind of miss that camaraderie of being in class and saying, 'What did she say?' or 'What does this do? But, I also feel like I have more ownership of my education and more autonomy, too. I've really been able to be as flexible as I need to be."
With her interest in leadership, Bice has discovered some new perspectives in the MSN in Nursing Administration online curriculum. So far, NURS 5382: Nursing and Healthcare Policy is, surprisingly, her favorite course.
"I have shied away from politics in the past because people are so passionate about politics, their dreams, their goals and their financial stability, but I really liked the public policy class," she said.
One thing she loved most was that she and her fellow online students followed a house bill in the Texas State Legislature during the course.
"I followed House Bill 10, which advocates for mental health parity for Texas," Bice said. "What that meant was mental health patients get equal benefits as medical patients. It actually passed after I finished the course, and I followed it a little further. I thought it was cool to be able to see the progression of how policy is developed and the effect nurses do truly have."
Bice is excited that graduation day is right around the corner. She plans to make the trip to Arlington to attend the graduation ceremony and celebrate her hard work with family and friends.
"Both of my parents have their bachelor's and master's degrees," Bice said. "My mom didn't get her master's until she was in her fifties. I was in school at the time. That was motivating for me, like, 'If my mom can do it, I can do it.'"
As for the biggest key to success in the online MSN program? That's where Bice relied on some psychology to bring her higher education career full circle.
"Don't wait — you'll only find more excuses," Bice said. "One of the biggest reasons I went to graduate school was I was single at the time — no kids, not married. I had the least amount of excuses ever. Once I get married, I would say, 'Oh, I want to spend time with my husband.' Once I have kids, 'Oh, I want to spend time with my baby.' There will always be more and more excuses. Just do it. Don't wait and come up with more reasons not to."
Learn more about the UTA online MSN in Nursing Administration program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.