Amanda Newcomb's then-six-year-old son unwittingly provided the inspiration she needed to return to higher education.
"He's very advanced in school," said Newcomb of her now eight-year-old. "I remember being amazed at the amount of expectation placed on him as he entered school. I thought about how he had to learn how to tie his shoes, gain social skills, make friends and learn to follow a whole new set of rules and he's breezing through his academics as well. It made me believe it wouldn't be as hard for me to manage classes and my career as I'd once thought.'"
Newcomb, a single mother who also works full time, graduated from University of Southern Indiana's online RN to BSN program in May 2017. Just a few months later, she enrolled in USI's Master of Science in Nursing with a Specialty in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program. She's maintaining a 4.0 in that program.
"It just kind of fell into place," she said. "I work full time, and I went to school full time. I took 10 or 12 [credit] hours at a time. Even so, I could do it because I work weekend option nights. I would work my 12-hour shifts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then get right back on track during the week. My son goes to school, so I would get up in the morning and 'go to school' while he was at school, and it progressed. He began his elementary education full time, and I went back to college full time. We both did it."
Once she made her way through the online RN to BSN program, Newcomb had no doubt she wanted to continue her education.
"I had thought about it in the past," she said. "It just gave me more direction finishing my BSN. Being there, it seemed like the logical next step. I had such a good experience at USI that the master's suddenly felt more doable."
The Path to Nursing
Like many new, young college students, Newcomb had to find her way and figure out what she wanted to do.
"When I first attended college, I was 19," she said. "I took business classes and they didn't spark my interest. I felt kind of lost. I wasn't interested in anything I was going to school for. I took liberal arts classes -- and loved those -- but I didn't understand how to build a career for myself from arts and humanities classes alone."
She left college and worked at a casino in entertainment management before she decided to follow an interest in healthcare that began when she helped her family in the care of elderly relatives. Then more changes came her way that urged her along the nursing path.
"I got married and moved to a rural area. I took on the role of caretaker to kids, animals and the land we lived on, and it felt good. It felt like the right fit for me because it's what I felt fulfilled doing. I truly enjoyed it."
Newcomb, 40, earned an Associate of Nursing from Ivy Tech Community College in 2009 and prior to that, was a Licensed Practical Nurse for 2 years. She worked as a staff nurse before she became a critical care registered nurse at Deaconess Health System in Evansville, Indiana.
"Everyone in my life and at USI was supportive, but honestly, I really feel that earning my BSN is something I should have done a long time ago," she said. "I'm not what's considered a traditional student, but very often, nursing students aren't traditional students. That's another thing that drove my decision to and apply to the master's and the nurse practitioner program."
Newcomb chose USI after she heard quite a bit about the nursing program at her job.
"I've lived in Evansville my whole life, so USI is a big part of our community and an active clinical partner in my workplace as well," she said. "They've always had a presence with nursing students and clinical instructors in the intensive care unit I work in."
She also enjoyed the ease and flexibility of the program, from start to finish.
"Everyone in administration and staff is very helpful," Newcomb said. "From applying to the program to graduation, the flow of it was easy and accessible. The USI website is outstanding. There's nothing you can't accomplish sitting at home in front of your computer."
Newcomb said two of her favorite courses in the curriculum were Population-Focused Care for RN [NURS 457] and Applications of Evidence Based Practice [NURS 367].
"Students often don't enjoy evidence-based practice, but you encounter certain research and things you might be skeptical about in practice," she said. "Learning research, however, really bears out the protocols we're driven by in practice. The evidence-based practice class teaches you to have a questioning mindset, when you should look deeper into problems, what is good research and what isn't."
And while she is not interested in management at the moment, Newcomb knows the BSN is a key factor for nurses who want to take that leap.
"If something happened where I wasn't able to complete the master's program, I still have much more career and job mobility," she said. "I can apply for jobs and be considered for promotions that I couldn't without a bachelor's degree. I wouldn't necessarily have to work at the bedside if I didn't want to, although that is where I like to be at the moment."
Back for More
Newcomb won't have much time off before she starts the master's program, but she looks forward to being in school alongside her son for a couple more years.
"I certainly hope I'm setting an example for my son that emphasizes the value of education," she said. "Most people in my family have college degrees. Prior to earning my BSN, I was financially secure and had a good career, so I delayed getting a degree, although it was always a goal of mine. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't waited as long to begin pursuing my degree, but with USI's RN to BSN transition program it all worked out. I want my son to go for it -- do it and not be hesitant like I was. Putting it off just makes it more daunting to go back."
In fact, she would tell anybody not to hesitate when it comes to their nursing education.
"Just do it," she said. "Take advantage of how USI has streamlined their program. The course work integrates your actual experience as a working bedside nurse. They draw on your experience and value that you are a practicing nurse."
And no matter where her career leads her, Newcomb said she feels more equipped to meet any challenge.
"I have worked alongside nurse practitioners for several years," she said. "They're my colleagues. As an experienced RN, a degree in invaluable. I feel like the logical next step for me is to do more and learn more -- not just for myself, but for my patients. Healthcare is facing brand new challenges and so many unknowns. I hope to make a make a positive impact on the emerging healthcare system through furthering my education and advancing my practice."Learn more about USI's online RN to BSN program.
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