Free Information Session: Online RN to BSN Alumni Spotlight on Lori Williams

Free Information Session: Online RN to BSN Alumni Spotlight on Lori Williams

Original Air Date: October 1, 2018

Listen as Ligia Popescu interviews Lori Williams, an alumnus of Carson-Newman's Online RN to BSN degree program, and asks about her experience navigating the program.

Guest Panelists:

  • Ligia Popescu, host
  • Lori Williams Carson-Newman Online RN-BSN Alumnus
  • Amy Skelton, Student Success Advisor
  • Riley Sellers, Senior Enrollment Advisor

Read the Full Transcript Here!

00:04 Ligia Popescu: Hello, and welcome to the Alumni Spotlight on Lori Williams webinar, presented by the online RN to BSN program at Carson-Newman University. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to join us. My name is Ligia Popescu, and I'll be your host today. Before we begin, please refresh your browser and turn up the volume on your computer or device to hear the audio. If you are having any technical difficulties or questions for our panelists, please put them into the Q&A box and hit send. Here's a look at what we'll be covering in today's session. First, we're going to hear from 2016 online RN to BSN Alumna Lori Williams. And she will discuss her experience with online learning, the Carson-Newman RN to BSN program, the faculty, coursework, and the impact the degree's had on her career. We will end with a Q&A session, so if you have any questions at all, please just put them in the Q&A box and we'll answer as many as we can. Okay. Thanks for taking the time to be with us today, Lori. Will you please take some time and tell us about your background?

01:17 Lori Williams: My name is Lori Williams, and I'd like to say it's an honor to be an alumni of Carson-Newman, and to be able to be here with you all today. I am a nurse of over 30 years experience. I initially graduated from Jefferson Community College in Louisville, Kentucky in 1984. Late in life, I decided to go back to pursue higher education, and I'm still on that pathway. But I completed my BSN at Carson-Newman through their online program in 2016, and I'm currently working on a Master's degree as a family nurse, for a family nurse practitioner, and I anticipate to graduate in 2019 from that. I have experience in cardiopulmonary nursing, emergency department, pediatrics. And I'm a member of several professional organizations, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, the Nurse Midwives and Baptist Nursing Fellowship.

02:32 LP: Thank you. Now I'd like to just take the time to ask some questions so we can get to know you a little bit better. So, why did you choose a career in nursing?

02:47 LW: Initially, I wanted to have a stable, secure career. I was seeking something with a good income, but most of all I wanted to make a difference in people's lives, I wanted to help others, and I also wanted an opportunity for professional growth.

03:15 LP: What attributes make for a great nurse, would you say?

03:20 LW: I think compassion, caring, a willingness to listen and learn from your patients, a desire to go the distance for quality care, and a desire to be an advocate for patients, and the future of healthcare.

03:38 LP: Right. So, why did you decide that it was important to get a BSN degree?

03:47 LW: Well, my ultimate goal is to be a family nurse practitioner, and that is usually a requirement of most FNP programs. Also, most hospitals are going to Magnet status, and the minimum requirement in many places, or in RN, is a BSN degree.

04:07 LP: Got it. So then, what would you say are your career plans now that you have your BSN and you're in your MSN program?

04:15 LW: Ultimately, I'm hoping to get my FNP degree. And I would like to work in a medically underserved area, and I like the idea of having my own clinic. I think that would be exciting.

04:30 LP: Awesome. So now we're going to talk a little bit about your experience with the Carson-Newman program. What was your opinion of online learning prior to applying to the program and how has it changed since you graduated?

04:44 LW: Well, I did have some experience with online learning prior to going to Carson-Newman. Initially, I was frightened over technology, wondering if I would be able to navigate the different programs. I was also wondering how I would manage my learning time, that was scary to me. But after I was in the program, especially at Carson-Newman, I learned that they have many resources to help if you have any fear. For example, the library is a tremendous, fantastic resource for the student. We're very busy... Our ends are very busy with their families and also their careers, so it's a challenge, but it's a very doable challenge.

05:43 LP: So then, why did you decide to choose an online program for your RN to BSN?

05:49 LW: For me, I needed the flexibility and control that an online program would offer. I needed to be able to balance my family and work obligations. I also had a very ill mother at the time that I was doing this. And at that time, online was the only option for me. And actually is still the only option for me.

06:15 LP: Thank you. You mentioned you had some fears about online learning and I just was hoping you could tell us a little bit more about the barriers you experienced but were able to work through, especially as it pertains to just learning how to navigate the online classroom and using the software. Did you have resources? Did you get help? How were you able to overcome any barriers you worried about?

06:42 LW: There were several resources through the library at Carson-Newman to teach you how to navigate the different programs. There were several program venues that my classes utilized. It wasn't limited to one. So usually, learning to navigate was not much of a problem. They were very self-explanatory. If there were problems, there was always a library resource to go to. Sometimes there would be problems like downtime, but I emphasize that didn't happen very often. You'll get problems like that with any online program, but when there were downtime issues or technology glitches, they were very, very quick to resolve those. And students were never penalized if there was a problem like that.

07:38 LP: Excellent. So then, how were you able to balance your work, your personal obligations and family life with your studies while you were in the program?

07:53 LW: I had a... I'm sorry?

07:55 LP: The library was a great place, you mentioned.

08:00 LW: Yes, it was. It was important for me to have some quiet time to focus on my school work. I'm very easily distracted, so I needed those quiet moments. I did go to my local library, they had some... They have a quiet room that you can utilize throughout the day. So I took advantage of that several times. Also at home, just finding a quiet place and quiet moments. I did a whole lot of my school work very early in the morning, when the house was quiet. That was helpful to me. And finding things like online flash cards and things where I could enhance my studies was also helpful.

08:49 LP: Wonderful. So can you give me an idea of how many other schools or programs you considered?

08:57 LW: I wouldn't know a number, but I did research several online programs and also some local campuses before coming to Carson-Newman. There are many out there. [laughter]

09:11 LP: So what factors inevitably influenced your decision to enrol in Carson-Newman's Nursing program?

09:18 LW: The number one factor was that it was a Christ-centered place to get my education. That was very important. Also, it was very important to me that they be accredited. And through my research I learned they were a top-ranked nursing program. And their nursing program has a very wonderful reputation. So those were all factors in my decision.

09:46 LP: Thank you. Can you tell me then a little bit about your experience with the faculty members? We have a picture of Dr. Angie Wood there. She's actually the Dean of Nursing. And Sue McBee is the online RN to BSN Program Director and then Mary Coleman is the nursing faculty member. So what was your experience with the faculty?

10:10 LW: Every faculty member that I came in contact with was wonderful. They cared about my success. They were always very straightforward and very helpful. And I will say about Dr. Wood, she is a wealth of information and professionalism. She helped me realize just how important nursing is on a personal level and I really appreciate that. Mary Coleman, I remember her always being helpful and concerned, especially when my mom was very ill. She would ask me how I was doing, and that meant a lot as well. And then Sue McBee was my advisor, and she was always very, very supportive.

10:53 LP: So, which faculty member stands out the most to you?

10:57 LW: It has to be Sue McBee. She will forever be my mentor. And I mentioned earlier about my mom being so sick. It was a very difficult, stressful situation, and Sue would periodically send me encouraging notes and Bible verses. I was so touched by her words that I would always share those with my family. And they were encouraged as well. And I don't know exactly how she knew, but just that small act of kindness made a lifetime impression on many souls. Then when I graduated, I wasn't able to come to campus to participate in the ceremony. But afterwards, Sue asked if she could bring my diploma to me and we were able to meet for lunch. We met halfway. We're 500 miles apart and we met in Nashville. And she came with another faculty member, Patsy. And I apologize, I can't remember a Patsy's last name but they were just wonderful. And they were just incredible, and Sue is just one incredible lady, and I know she makes a huge impression on many, many nursing students.

12:14 LP: Well, I'm really glad you got that picture of all of you together. It's a wonderful picture, and really does speak to just the quality of the faculty members and how far they're willing to go for their students. So let's talk about some of the coursework and what your experience was with it. So can you just talk about some of the courses, projects, or assignments that seem to resonate with you the most?

12:46 LW: The two projects that you have highlighted were my favorites, the diabetes presentation really made an impact on me. That was a project about how to improve patient compliance and outcomes among patients, among diabetic patients in rural areas. And through my research I found that, by using point of care testing of A1C levels rather than making patients go through laboratory testing, could result in care being initiated sooner. And it also can result in lower A1C levels, fewer visits to the clinic, lower healthcare costs, and fewer complications from diabetes. Then the Professional Nursing Organization paper, that highlighted declining interest in membership in professional nursing organizations. Professional organizations are the voice of nursing, and we need those in order to guide quality healthcare and address issues like the nursing shortage. By taking part in our organizations, we have a voice and we become advocates for the best healthcare, safety, and professional standards above all other professions. So those were very, very important projects to me.

14:26 LP: Can you tell me, the diabetes presentation, did you present it to any rural clinics? Or do you plan to present it in your future career to a clinic?

14:40 LW: I have not been able to present this as of yet, but the information in that project is still relevant. And it's very good information, and I will definitely have this in my portfolio as something to look to in the future.

15:02 LP: Thank you. So how has the BSN degree impacted your nursing career thus far?

15:12 LW: Thus far, it opens the doors to better employment. I haven't accepted any positions as of yet, because I'm in school. But my eyes are open and I see many opportunities that I'm now eligible for that I wasn't eligible for a couple years ago. So it helps to develop better professionally. I'm sorry, were you about to say something?

15:36 LP: Oh. No, I was going to say that... Can you give us some examples of how you've been able to apply your learnings in the BSN program to your MSN?

15:47 LW: Well, the BSN definitely paves the pathway to the MSN. It opens the doors and makes you realize how important nursing is as a profession. There's a little bit different way of learning an ADN, versus the BSN. You're focused a little bit more professionally in the BSN track. And definitely more in the MSN track. Experience is a really good teacher. But when you add higher education, it becomes a pathway and it helps you to utilize your experience to its fullest potential.

16:33 LP: Just a quick question, when do you think is the right time for an RN to get their BSN?

16:44 LW: I think that's very individualized. I am much older. I can't sit here and tell you that it's easy. It's a very big challenge. It's probably one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my life. I would recommend the more earlier that you can, the better, but just because you're older, doesn't mean that you can't. It's very doable even when you're in your 50s like I am. You can do it. You have to believe in yourself and look at your goals, and reach out and take the chance.

17:26 LP: Right, that's right. So I'm going to give everyone a little bit of an overview about this program. Carson-Newman was founded in 1851 and is a nationally ranked liberal arts university. It's fully accredited by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education and approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing. There are 120 total program units. RNs who are accepted into the program would get 30 credits for their previous RN education and training, and then we would transfer in some liberal arts requirements if they have them. If they don't have all the liberal arts requirements, Carson-Newman certainly has them available for you to take. And then there are 31 units for the actual nursing major. That totals 120, which is a bachelor's. The program is delivered 100% online. There is a clinical practicum that can be completed in your local community. The curriculum is rigorous, and it includes academic and clinical performance requirements. But overall, the curriculum was developed to empower nurses to be well-rounded, proactive caregivers who will be able to work independently within any healthcare setting. The cost for this program is about one to $200 less per credit hours than many competitors, so it's a very affordable program. Students can also transfer in up to 90 credits max.

19:15 LP: If you have questions about the program units or the transfer credits, I recommend reaching out to our enrollment advisor, who I will introduce in a moment. As far as the faculty goes, all of them possess advanced education degrees or doctorates. They're all involved in community outreach, they all have clinical practice experience and have some cutting-edge skills and job knowledge to impart to students. Class sizes are about 25 students or less, and the reputation of the school is really... They're really great. They're recognized as one of the top ten Bachelorette programs in the nation by Washington Monthly. In 2017, US News called Carson-Newman a great school at a great price, and it's also known as a leading institution for undergraduate teaching in the South in 2016. Now, there are many benefits to choosing an online program, but that can vary on the university. So I'd like to introduce Amy Skelton, our Student Success Advisor, who will walk us through what supported online learning means at Carson-Newman.

20:36 Speaker 3: Thanks, Lig. Students will have a student success advisor such as myself, who would advise them on their degree plan and guide them through course selection... The advisor would work with their students from enrollment through graduation. The student advisor would be their main point of contact and be their liaison to all the other departments. During the first call, the advisor will discuss the student's transcripts and assist them with registration through C-N Connect. Then on the first day of classes, the student would have a call with their advisor where the advisor would go through the online course and guide them through Edvance360. Students should expect to have continuous contact with their advisor or myself throughout their entire program. And we'll support them through their educational journey with Carson-Newman, monitoring their academic progress and assisting them with registration. The online students are going to interact with the other students in their class, they'll interact with the professors, this is going to allow them to enhance their career network. Also, their online classes and resources such as Who Knew It is available 24 hours a day to the students as long as they have internet access.

21:51 LP: Thank you. I just love that students have a dedicated student advisor to just contact and reach out whenever they get stuck or have a question or concern. So that's a really great thing to offer. At this point, I'd like to invite Riley Sellers, the senior enrollment advisor, and if you haven't talked to her yet, I highly recommend giving her a call. She has all the answers to your questions. But right now I'd like her to just walk us through the admissions requirements for the program.

22:23 Speaker 4: Thanks, Lig. Well, the first step to getting started is to give me a call. We'll have a brief phone interview. I know nurses are very busy, so it won't take long. But some of the requirements are you do have to have your unencumbered RN license, you do need transcripts from all previously attended colleges, and at least a 2.75 GPA.

22:48 LP: Great. And what are the dates and deadlines for applying?

22:57 S4: Well, our next classes are going to be February 19th, and those classes will end on March 30th. The deadline for that is going to be February 9th, which is coming up. So if you're interested in getting started, give us a call. Our next classes after that are going to be on May 7th.

23:15 LP: Awesome. Now we've reached the Q&A section of our presentation. Our first question is for Lori. What advice do you have for potential students who are interested in the program?

23:33 LW: Take a risk. Don't underestimate yourself. Nursing is full of great opportunities, and higher education opens doors to new pathways.

23:47 LP: And another question for you Lori. Would you say that the investment of your time in your studies and the financial investment in getting a degree, would you say that's all been worth it?

23:58 LW: Absolutely. I am so glad that I received my BSN, and to receive it from Carson-Newman was even better.

24:08 LP: Great. Next question is for Riley. What is the cost of the program and is financial aid available?

24:17 S4: Yes, we do have financial aid for those that apply and qualify. I also recommend for all employees to check with their employer about any tuition reimbursement. Our tuition here is 330 per credit hour, and then there is a $20 technology fee per credit hour as well.

24:39 LP: Is there an application fee or a cost for a transfer credit evaluation?

24:43 S4: Not at all. The application is free, and if you'd like to have your transcripts evaluated, all you would have to do is email me a copy of unofficial and I'd be happy to have a tentative evaluation done at no charge.

24:54 LP: Great. So another question is, what types of assignments do students typically get in nursing courses?

25:06 S4: They go from getting exams to what we have is a threaded discussion forum, which is similar to a message board, where they will interact with their classmates, to multiple choice test questions, to papers. It kind of varies, but they have all kinds of different types of assignment.

25:28 LP: Got it. And so, there are seven core nursing courses and, yes, the student advisor can definitely help often in that program. And then, the last question is, what can you expect from a call with an enrollment advisor? I can take that one. So as Riley mentioned, you can... She will help you walk through the program with you, she'll help you decide which electives you want to take, if any, she'll help you work with the financial aid people and will get your application in the strongest possible place it can be. And then, from there, you would move into the hands... After registration, move into Amy's hands, who would then help you continue your education once you're registered. This is Riley's contact information, if anyone is interested in applying. I highly recommend contacting Riley before you begin your application, just so you have everything you need to know about it beforehand. So this concludes our webinar presentation today, and I thank you all for joining us. Thank you very much to our panelists and Lori, I wish you a lot of luck with your MSN and your nursing career. Thank you, thank you so much.

26:51 LW: Thank you.

26:55 S3: Thank you.