Former travel nurse Hannah Binkley wasn't about to let a 1,200-mile trip from North Carolina to Texas keep her from graduation day. Especially after she completed the Master of Science in Nursing in Nursing Administration online program at the University of Texas at Arlington with a 4.0 GPA in 2015.
"I skipped across the stage," Binkley said. "It's kind of a big deal."
Binkley continued channeling her inner Jack Kerouac with a move to Denver, Colorado, where she accepted a position as operating room nurse manager at Centura Health in October 2018. She credits the MSN in Nursing Administration with giving her the inside track to a career in management.
"Having a master's degree is the entryway to a leadership position now," Binkley said. "You can't even apply for most leadership positions without a master's degree. I was an assistant nurse manager in North Carolina when Centura Health saw my experience and recruited me through LinkedIn. I relocated to Denver for the position."
With 10 years of experience as an operating room nurse and some well-used suitcases, Binkley was ready to make the move into management. She was working in Dallas when she learned about the online nursing programs at UTA. Affordable tuition, the GRE waiver for students with a 3.0 GPA or higher in undergrad and the fully online format all drew Binkley into the program.
"Earning a graduate degree was something I had always talked about and thought about," she said. "I know that getting a master's degree is essential to being in a leadership position and prepares you for leading other people. I thought it was important to advance my education past a bachelor's degree."
Binkley grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and followed in the footsteps of her parents by attending Pittsburg State University. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in registered nursing in 2004.
"At an early age, I knew I was going to be a nurse," she said. "After I graduated, I wanted to go someplace new. I decided North Carolina was a pretty name for a state, so I moved there and ended up working in the operating room, which was an unexpected opportunity."
In 2007, Binkley became a travel nurse to feed her wanderlust and gain valuable and diverse nursing experience in a variety of settings, including surgery centers, trauma centers and community hospitals. She had finished that portion of her career when she enrolled at UTA.
"I enjoyed the travel nurse experience," she said. "It prepared me for leadership because I worked in so many different hospitals. You really learn what works, what doesn't work and how to mold people, learn from different people and adapt to different situations."
In 2013, Binkley moved back to North Carolina and went to work at a fixed location because she was starting school. The flexibility of the online format allowed her to balance a full-time job and school. She landed a job as assistant nurse manager at Novant Health the year after she graduated from UTA.
"Time management was one of the biggest things I learned," she said. "It was, 'Okay, I have this much to do this week. Monday I have to get this done. Tuesday I have to get this done.' I did what it took to finish my schoolwork — some nights it was two hours; some nights it was four. I spent most of my weekends writing papers. I spent about 20 hours a week on school."
Some of Binkley's favorite courses in the online MSN in Nursing Administration program were the ones focused on the business aspect of administration. So much so that Binkley plans to enroll in an MBA in Healthcare Administration program at Pittsburg State in June 2019.
"One master's degree isn't enough," she said. "I'm an operating nurse manager, and the operating room accounts for 60 percent of the income of the entire hospital. You have to be a good business person to be a good operating room manager. The business classes and the leadership classes at UTA were the most helpful to me."
Binkley said she always received quick responses and helpful feedback on assignments from the UTA faculty, which made for a solid online experience.
"I learned a lot about how to lead people and how to speak with people, in addition to how to manage time," she said. "Online, you really have to be disciplined to do it all on your own. The MSN in Nursing Administration program taught me how to prioritize and think rationally about things."
Now that Binkley is settling into a new position, she is enjoying some time off from school while learning the intricacies of Rocky Mountain life. Once Binkley completes the MBA in Healthcare Management, she hopes to eventually become a vice president of surgical services.
Binkley, who enjoys running marathons and cooking, is happy she returned to college for a master's degree. She believes the online MSN in Nursing Administration program is manageable for anybody with the right mindset.
"Just don't procrastinate," she said. "You have to stay on top of things and don't get caught up in the number of things you have to do. If you break it down, it's totally doable. Overall, I thought it was a great program."
And make sure to not skip graduation.
Learn more about the UTA online MSN in Nursing Administration program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.