It didn’t take long for opportunity to knock after Jessica Prince graduated from UTA’s online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in December 2017.
The Caldwell, Texas, native was happy to answer.
“The bachelor’s degree definitely put me in the mindset to continue pursuing my education and to keep reaching for bigger goals,” she said. “I started training other nurses on the floor the month after graduation. Then, I stepped into a charge position. The RN to BSN definitely gave me the leadership skills that I needed and rounded out my overall nursing knowledge.”
Prince is a registered nurse on the orthopedic floor at Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, Texas. She is in her second year as a nurse. Prince graduated with an Associate of Applied Science from Central Texas College in 2016 to become the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree. She started the UTA online program the following month.
“I’d always planned to get a bachelor’s degree,” Prince said. “My husband [Jose] is in the Army, so we move around a lot. Getting an associate degree and staying somewhere for two years was more feasible than staying somewhere and doing a four-year program. But I worked full-time, did full-time classes and finished the bachelor’s degree program in one year.”
Shadowing the director of nursing at Scott & White Medical Center for a day as part of the NURS 4455: Nursing Leadership & Management course led Prince to expand her career aspirations.
“Following the director was kind of intimidating at first because she was new to the hospital,” Prince said. “Seeing how passionate she is about her job and how much she impacts the unit that I work on really sold me on that route. Hopefully, I’ll be going back to school to do something with leadership and administration so I can reach one of those goals.”
In the DNA
Prince’s initial interest in nursing came from her mother, Anna Ekman, a licensed vocational nurse at CHI St. Joseph Burleson Hospital in Caldwell.
“She basically raised me in a nursing household,” Prince said. “She inspired me with how much she cared about her patients and how much they loved her back. She does a really good job helping everybody out.”
Prince got an EMT license through the high school she attended. She was a certified nursing assistant while attending Central Texas College. After graduating with her associate degree, Prince started working as a nurse and enrolled in the online RN to BSN program in the same month.
Although Prince considered another Texas university, she chose UTA because the program is fully online and the tuition is very affordable.
“Other schools wanted you to have this many hours doing a practicum where you had to go somewhere else,” she said. “It was easier for me to utilize my work and my coworkers for the things that I needed with the online program at UTA.”
Prince made the right call. The format was conducive to her schedule, helping balance work, school and time at home with Jose.
“There are three days during the week that I am required to work at the hospital,” she said. “I had at least one or two days off during the week where I could sit down and knock out all of my schoolwork. You have to have the motivation to do it. It usually took me one day to get two or three classes’ worth of homework done.”
Quality Degree — Stat
Although Prince gained real-world knowledge in all of the courses in the online RN to BSN curriculum, one course in particular hit close to home.
“The floor that I work on is mostly people who are 60 or older getting their hips and knees replaced,” she said. “The geriatrics course that I took helped me touch base with gerontological care. The patients are elderly, so you have to know about how everything affects everything else.”
Prince was also impressed with the support the UTA nursing faculty provided and pleased with the quick time to completion of as few as nine months. Even though Prince took a couple of breaks during the online RN to BSN program, she still finished in 12 months.
“I was always able to reach out to my instructors,” she said. “If I wasn’t going to be able to meet a deadline, they were very flexible. There were a lot of storms and crazy things going on through my cohort — our electricity and water went out. The instructors were all very responsive and the program was quick.”
Prince, who is training to run a marathon, also benefited from the strong support of her family and friends throughout her time in the program. They converged on Arlington to celebrate together on graduation day.
“I went to the pinning ceremony in the morning and then graduation that night,” she said. “I enjoyed it. My in-laws, my family and my sisters, who came in from out of state were all there.”
Prince finished the associate and bachelor’s degree programs back to back, but she’ll take a break before she enrolls in a master’s degree program. She has already learned plenty, including the biggest key to success in an online program.
“Managing your time is important,” Prince said. “Working full-time and taking more than one class at a time is a little more time-consuming. You have to motivate yourself, sit down and knock it out. It was a little rough halfway through the program when classes got a little bit harder. The light at the end of the tunnel halfway through pushed me through. It’s very rewarding in the end.”
Learn more about the UTA online RN to BSN program.