Brenda White didn’t have to look far for motivation to enroll in the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at UTA.
“It’s something I wanted to do for a long time,” White said. “My husband, Adrien, and I have been together for five years. He said, ‘It’s time for you to go ahead and get your BSN.’ He pushed me to do it and was my biggest coach. Plus, with some things that I wanted to do in my career, it was a smart choice to go ahead and get started and get it done.”
White, a Care Assure nurse navigator for Conroe Regional Medical Center and Pearland Medical Center in the Houston area, graduated in 2016. However, she plans a return to UTA this year to enroll in the online Master of Science in Nursing in Education program.
“I’ve had people approach me about director positions and management positions,” White said. “I’m geared toward education, and the job that I’m in now helps me educate patients. The MSN is going to help me pursue my long-term goal of becoming a nurse educator. I want to teach other nursing students on the college level.”
White is the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree. One of her co-workers, Jennifer Boettger, also completed the online RN to BSN program, helping both of them stay focused and graduate in 18 months.
“We got each other through the program,” White said. “She graduated at the same time as me. I’m trying to get her to go back for the MSN, but that’s a tough sell for her right now.”
White grew up in Albany, Georgia. Working as a nurse’s aide at a local nursing home inspired her to pursue a caregiving career.
“I saw how well the LVNs [Licensed Vocational Nurses] treated the nursing staff and said, ‘I could do that job,'” she said. “I was working at a hospital as an LVN, then I got my associate degree and a registered nurse certification. I started climbing the ladder. The role I’m in now segues into what I want to do, help the younger nurses out there.”
White wound up in Texas via travel nursing and got married while in the online RN to BSN program.
“My kids were grown, and I felt stagnant where I was,” she said. “When I met my husband, he said, ‘Put up your traveling shoes — you’re not going anywhere else.'”
White learned about the UTA online RN to BSN from co-workers in the program and on an education day at her job.
“I liked what my co-workers in the program told me about UTA and how the courses are friendly and easy to navigate,” she said. “My husband and I paid for school out of pocket. It was cost-effective. We put it in our budget and took care of the payment every semester.”
The online format was ideal for White, who was a full-time unit supervisor working three-plus shifts a week at the time. She transitioned into her current role shortly after graduating.
“My husband also does shift work,” she said. “When he was working nights and I was off and couldn’t sleep, I could get up at 1 or 2 in the morning and work on my studies. That was awesome. I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I had been away from school for so long that it was like, ‘Okay, I’ll start with one class.’ Then, I did two. One semester, I had four classes.”
Even with an associate degree, White needed to complete some prerequisites. However, she quickly worked her way through them and to the nursing courses.
“Looking at it, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m never going to get this done,'” she said. “I had a checklist and got started. The nursing classes were more structured than the other ones, but I got through it all.”
White enjoyed all of the nursing courses in the online RN to BSN program, but she especially liked NURS 4465: Care of Vulnerable Populations Across the Lifespan.
“I didn’t know how important community nursing is to what I do,” she said. “I really enjoyed networking in the community to get a feel for what’s out there with people who aren’t insured and trying to get them some benefits.
“Community service woke something up in me. I took some of the information from the leadership class to my nursing staff. It helped me become a better leader. I was always a charge nurse, in a supervisor role, but doing that leadership class helped me bring something more to the table.”
Even with the application-based assignments required in the program, White completed the majority of the work online and at her job.
“It was pretty much getting someone from my job to work with,” she said. “I really didn’t have to do much off-site for the clinical assignments. I had to do a physical on a subject, do a report and turn in their permission to use them. Other than that, everything was online.”
Life was extremely hectic for White while she was in school, but she successfully struck a balance.
“I was planning a wedding, building a house and, my daughter, God bless her soul, had just passed away,” she said. “I was dealing with a lot. With the flexibility, I stayed on course. When I couldn’t rest, I went up to my office to do schoolwork. It helped me keep my mind straight.”
Not only did the bachelor’s degree help White advance in her career and make her a better leader, it also motivated her to want a master’s degree. She said, “There was a lady on Facebook looking at all of the prerequisites and what she needed to do for the RN to BSN. I said, ‘You know, you can either look at it as you can spend that year-and-a-half working toward your goals or spend that year-and-a-half still complaining, but either way that year-and-a-half is going to come and go.’
“Motivate yourself to do it. You might as well have a degree at the end of that year-and-a-half. Make yourself marketable. That’s what I tell my nurses: Do whatever you need to do to enhance your resume and make yourself more marketable.”
Learn more about the UTA online RN to BSN program.
- Learn Nursing Education Strategies to Use With Your Future Students
- A Look at the Future of Nursing Education
- The Importance of Increasing Education in Nursing