Lynn Garner is a career renaissance woman.
After earning bachelor's degrees in business and education, she enrolled in the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, and she's on track to graduate in August 2020.
"I was scared to death because nursing school almost killed me," she said. "I had never done anything that hard in my life. I had two degrees and thought, 'I can do this. This is nothing.' But that two-year associate degree was pretty tough. So, I put off going back for a couple of years."
Garner, who graduated with an associate degree from Calhoun Community College in 2017, is now a charge nurse at Valley View Health and Rehab in Madison, Alabama. She hopes to become a family nurse practitioner.
"To get there, I had to have a bachelor's degree," she said. "If that two-year nursing degree didn't kill me, I can do anything.'
"My dad was on hospice care at the time. I wasn't working as much because I was taking care of him. He was sleeping a lot of the time. So, I thought, 'While we're sitting here doing nothing, I could be doing these online classes.' That was one reason I went ahead and signed up."
Since Garner returned to work full time in January 2020, she hasn't missed a beat. The online format helps her balance her job, school and still have time for a family life with her husband, Thomas, and their sons, Austin (20) and Matthew (14).
"The program is awesome," she said. "It's very manageable. I do schoolwork on my days off. It usually takes me one day a week to complete the assignments. There's a lot of flexibility with the online format."
Garner grew up in Decatur, Alabama. She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Athens State University and launched her first career.
She also got married and started a family while in school, which prompted her first career change. She earned a second bachelor's degree in early childhood and elementary education from Athens State.
"I needed to do something more geared around my family, so I went into education and loved it," she said. "I taught for eight years in Morgan County Schools.
"My oldest kid was having some difficulty in school, so we decided to homeschool our sons. I had to leave my teaching job, and I stayed home for seven years total."
But Garner returned to college and the workforce after her husband was laid off from his job as a contractor.
"I already had two degrees, but I didn't know what I could do with them because they were for mostly daytime jobs," she said. "I needed a job with weird hours.
"I did some research and saw that nurses make pretty good money. My dad was sick at the time. I watched the nurses at the hospital and thought, 'I can do this.'"
Once Garner was ready to go back to school, she narrowed her choices to the University of Alabama and UAH. Although she first enrolled in the Bama program, she ultimately went with UAH for her online RN to BSN.
"UAH was so good about reaching out to help me every step of the way. They kept reaching out to me. That's when I decided I would switch to UAH. They made it so seamless."
RN to BSN to ROI
Garner is already reaping the benefits of earning a bachelor's degree in nursing by laying a foundation for the next phase of her practice. She hopes to remain in long-term care and rehab.
"I was expecting the program to be more about health and the body systems," she said. "But it seems to be more about leadership, which I have enjoyed. In fact, I have applied for a leadership position I will probably end up taking at my work. I feel qualified to do that now."
The information Garner is learning in the program is also applicable to her current role.
"There are a lot of projects we've had to do that involve me having to talk to management at work," she said. "I have applied several things. Sometimes you have to use scenarios from your work to create projects."
With the support of family and friends, Garner looks forward to keeping her education going on to the graduate-degree level.
"They're very excited for me," she said. "When I went to nursing school, my husband thought I was crazy. I stepped way out of my comfort zone by doing that. This program has given me the confidence to move forward."
Especially now that Garner is close to graduation day, she is proud that she faced her fears. When it comes to earning a degree online, she believes there is no time like the present.
"Don't wait," she said. "Don't be afraid of this degree. I was scared to death after that two-year RN program. This is not as daunting as that was. That two-year program consumed my whole life. This is not like that. It's very manageable and very doable."Learn more about the UAH online RN to BSN program.
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