Kim Fowler is all about being a caregiver, whether she’s at work or at home.
Fowler, a nurse at University of North Carolina REX Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., and her sister, Catherine, have five rescue dogs at home — a Miniature Dachshund, a Chihuahua/Miniature Pincher mix, a Jack Russell Terrier/Rat Terrier mix, a Border Collie/Chow mix, and a Pit Bull mix.
Their oldest dog is 19.
“I’m not married, I don’t have children … I do have five dogs, though,” Fowler said. “The Pit Bull mix is like 120 pounds. He wasn’t 120 pounds when we rescued him — he was like 40. He was starving. He’s got scars all over him. Somebody probably fought him. They’ve become part of the family.”
Fowler has also been caring for human patients as an Associate of Nursing degree holder for almost as long as she has been taking care of rescue dogs — about 15 years. She added to her resume and expertise when she graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s RN to BS in Nursing online program in December 2016.
“If you want to move up, transfer or do anything, you’ve got to have that BSN,” said Fowler, who is originally from Raleigh and grew up all around the Wilmington area. “I’m an older person, so I went to graduation. I’m 53 years old, and I’m proud!”
Never Too Late
After starting her career as a physical therapy technician, Fowler decided to finally pursue her true calling, nursing.
“It’s something I always wanted to do — always,” she said. “Sometimes life doesn’t give you choices, so you have to go with the flow. It was later on in life I was able to go back.”
Fowler earned her associate degree from Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, N.C. She works on the surgical floor as a registered nurse, certified medical/surgical nurse, a certified bariatric nurse and a Basic Life Support instructor.
She decided to go with UNCW’s online RN to BSN degree program after talking to university recruiters.
“They were just friendly,” Fowler said. “It seemed like the whole program set you up to succeed. I’ve heard from other people that programs they were in were so disorganized, and it was really, really hard. This was completely organized.”
The online format also worked out perfectly for her, allowing plenty of time for work and her five “children.”
“I probably couldn’t have done it without it being online,” Fowler said. “I’m not married, so I work myself. This program is absolutely wonderful. And it’s very affordable. Where I work reimbursed me most of my tuition back, but it was still very affordable for me because I had to pay first, get my grades and make sure I passed before work reimbursed me. I was pleased. That’s definitely a big selling point.”
Acquiring New Knowledge
Even with her vast experience in the field, Fowler said she got a more in-depth look at nursing while earning her degree online, including the Pathophysiology and Pharmacological Evidenced Based Care [NSG 482] course.
“In an Associate Degree of Nursing class, we learned the different groups and this and that, but we weren’t all into the action of the drugs,” she said. “That was a great learning experience.”
Another course that provided Fowler with more interesting insight than she was expecting was Introduction to Health Assessment [NSG 323].
“When I had to take the class, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve been assessing patients for 15 years. I know how to assess patients,'” Fowler said. “But they go into more detail. Some of these classes are classes you can use toward your master’s, like if you’re going to do your Nursing Practitioner, which I plan on hopefully doing.
“They’re more advanced. I thought that was very, very interesting. Once I got into it, I thought, ‘Okay, now I know why they make you take it.’ Because it’s a whole lot more advanced than what you do in an ADN [course]. Even though you do a great assessment during an ADN, it’s not quite as thorough.”
She was also partial to her final course, Population and Community Health Nursing [NSG 408].
“I really, really enjoyed that course, because I’ve always been a bedside nurse,” Fowler said. “I’ve always worked in a hospital. Nursing in the community was a whole different world to me. I never really gave it much thought. It just opened my eyes to a whole other world of nursing.”
Have a Strategic Plan
Fowler, who said she ultimately wants to work in a hospital emergency room or at a rural clinic, was able to finish her RN to BSN degree program in one year. She also said it’s important to plan around your schedule in order to succeed.
“I think my situation is a little different,” she said. “I did it in just a year, and I worked full time. Doing it in a year is kind of the equivalent of going to school full time. Yes, I wanted to pull my hair out sometimes, but the one thing with this program is they let you go at your own pace. So, if you do have a family and other obligations, you don’t have to do it in a year.”
If time is not an issue, Fowler recommends taking only one course at a time, especially when one of the harder courses comes along.
“Maybe one semester, if you have an elective you have to take, maybe take an elective and one of the nursing classes,” she said. “But then if you’ve got a really tough class — Pathophysiological and Pharmacological Evidence Based Care, that was a tough class — only take one.”
Naturally, Fowler is looking out for everybody’s well-being.
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I’m the person that’s going to take care of you.”
Learn more about the UNCW online RN to BSN program.
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