Jessica Spangler was drawn to the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) while residing in Texas for a few reasons.
"Getting my bachelor's degree was a goal that I always had while going through nursing school," she said. "When we lived in Houston, a lot of the hospitals there had Magnet status that required you to have a bachelor's degree to work there, so that was also a little bit of motivation."
Plus, the Catherine, Alabama, native could feel a little touch of home from three states away. But by the time Spangler graduated in May 2019, she had moved back to her home turf and begun applying what she was learning in the program as an RN in the OB/GYN department at Decatur Morgan Hospital.
"My husband is military so we move around quite a bit," she said. "Magnet hospitals are not as much of a thing here, but it's always good to have a bachelor's degree and to stay competitive in the nursing industry."
The flexibility of the online format helped Spangler balance school with working full time and spending time with her husband, James, and their daughter, Savannah (2).
"It was definitely manageable," she said. "I would do the online classes when I got home at night or when I had a little downtime at work. Plus, my husband watched our daughter and gave me time to study and take tests. It worked out well."
Spangler is the first to admit that she took one of the least conventional paths possible to a thriving nursing career. After graduating from high school, she set her sights on becoming a beautician.
"After I enrolled in beauty school, I went back to the student center and said, 'Hey, sign me up for something that makes more money,'" she said. "The guy working there wrote something down, and the next thing I knew I was in nursing school. After that, I never stopped."
Along the way, Spangler earned Licensed Practical Nurse certification at Georgia's Savannah Technical College and took some prerequisite courses at Troy University in Alabama.
She graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing from Lone Star College in 2015. Three years later, she enrolled in the UAH online RN to BSN program.
"I liked how easy it was to get registered at UAH," she said. "Everybody was super friendly. They made everything so seamless. All of the instructors and staff were amazing. It was nice to have that from a college."
That culture and communication was especially impactful to Spangler one semester when she got the start date for a course mixed up and did not log in on time.
"They emailed me and said, 'Hey, class started. We noticed you didn't log in. Is everything okay? We are just checking on you,'" she explained. "I was so glad they did that. I logged in and apologized. They didn't give me zeroes on any assignments and gave me time to catch up.
"Everybody at UAH was so nice. Other colleges would have said, 'Hey, you're getting a zero,' or 'You're getting kicked out of the class.' They were so good to me. I couldn't say anything better about them."
Spangler said she thoroughly enjoyed all of the courses in the online RN to BSN curriculum and was able to apply what she was learning immediately to her career.
"All of the courses were good and helpful," she said. "It didn't feel like a waste of time like some classes sometimes do. I loved how we did a lot of discussion boards where other people brought in their experiences and shared them with the class. It was easy to apply it to my work life and my patients."
In fact, Spangler had such a positive experience in the online RN to BSN program that she plans to enroll in the Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner program at UAH in June 2020.
"I couldn't go into the master's degree program without my bachelor's degree, so the BSN opened the door for me to enroll in the MSN FNP program," she said. "Initially, I had a couple of co-workers who graduated from UAH, so I already had some good reviews from them before I started."
Although Spangler had some reservations about enrolling in a fully online program after previously taking only a few online courses in a hybrid program, it didn't take long for her to realize that everything was going to be all right.
"I was really intimidated going back," she said. "But it's not as difficult as you would expect. You can do it. It's manageable. You don't worry about having to quit your job or that you're a mom. It's very doable."
Sweet home Alabama, indeed.
Learn more about the UAH online RN to BSN program.
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