Nursing is the ideal career field for Carolyn Hunter. She is an expert on recovering.
In 2014, Hunter lost her marriage and her full-time job as a licensed practical nurse and missed passing the NCLEX by two points. Four years later, she completed the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at University of North Carolina Wilmington.
"I went right back to school in 2015," she said. "That's when I received my RN. Once you start school, it's never enough. You want to pursue more at a higher level and do more -- that's the mindset."
Hunter, 55, isn't finished. She is enrolling in the Master of Science Nurse Educator online program at UNCW for a Spring 2019 start. Hunter is an RN at Rural Health Group, the same company where she had worked previously, in Littleton, North Carolina. She got into nursing after more than 25 years in retail.
"I was burned out in retail," she said. "I said, 'You know what? I'm going to go to a community college and see what options I have.' Nursing came across the board. They said, 'Since you have been out of school for so long, you will have to start at the bottom and work your way up.'
"That's what I did. I took English, math -- all of it. I never thought about nursing. Some little girls say, 'I want to be a nurse.' We used to play doctor and nurse growing up, but it was never a profession I wanted to pursue until I was 45 years of age."
Still, Hunter took to nursing quickly, largely due to her ability to apply her stellar communication and people skills to her new profession.
"People ask for me," she said. "In the clinic, I had a couple of children who had to come in for care recently. They remembered me from the previous week. Both of them came running up to me and gave me a big hug. It makes you feel good when people appreciate you.
"My skills are growing. You get experience in nursing as you go. You don't go out and learn how to start an IV and draw blood immediately. The more I do it, the better I am. I thank God for all the places I've been and all of the experiences I have acquired."
Brand New Day
Hunter earned her RN license and graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing from Halifax Community College in Weldon, North Carolina, in 2015.
"When I started working at the hospital, they said, 'Make earning a bachelor's degree a five-year goal,'" she said. "I was a new RN, and I was so excited about the RN that I was content. Then, I took some prerequisites and spoke to somebody at UNCW. I never stopped. I filled out the application, I was accepted and I was excited. That's where my journey began."
The flexibility of the online format was important for Hunter. She worked third shift when she started the online RN to BSN program, but eventually moved to normal business hours.
"It really worked," Hunter said. "Transitioning into this position, I can come in and work on school in the evening time. On the weekends, I can work on assignments. No matter your schedule, you have to make it work. I'm going to make it work because I'm bound and determined."
The curriculum in the online RN to BSN program was especially applicable for Hunter's nursing practice.
"I liked the [NSG 321] Gerontological Nursing and the End of Life Care course because a large number of patients I work with are geriatric patients," she said. "I like working with the older population. I could take what I learned and apply it right into my practice."
Hunter also enjoyed NSG 415: Research in Nursing and NSG 406: Leadership and Management in Nursing, both of which helped round out her skills as a nurse.
"The research course keeps you up to date on the latest in nursing," she said. "I was on one of the medications they just recalled, so you keep up with things like that. I liked the management course a lot, because I would like to work in the area of leadership and management. I am looking."
Although Hunter completed the online RN to BSN in August 2018, she'll have to wait until December for the next graduation ceremony. She's understandably a bit eager.
"I'm already trying to get my cap and gown," she said. "I think I'm calling too early. They said, 'You need to call back around October.' I want my cap and gown. Graduation is in December. I can't believe it."
Dream Come True
Hunter credits not only God but also her children, William (25) and Lindsay (23), with giving her strength throughout her higher education journey.
"My daughter is my biggest supporter," Hunter said. "She and my son have been there for me from day one. Lindsay cooked meals for me the whole time. She's been a rock."
Now that Hunter's life is in a much better place, she hopes to inspire her fellow nurses who might be apprehensive about enrolling in a bachelor's degree program.
"I wanted to earn a BSN to get better," she said. "It's a personal thing. When I first walked into that big classroom in the nursing building at Halifax Community College, I was intimidated. So many people were knowledgeable and everybody was telling me what I needed to do to progress further. I know how I felt.
"I want to be the one to work with and encourage those new nursing students, let them know my story and let them know that with hard work, dedication and consistency of application, they can be who they want to be and they can obtain whatever they want to obtain. I'm a living witness. I never thought I'd be where I am now."
Staying focused on the task at hand was Hunter's biggest key to success in the online RN to BSN program. It will remain paramount for her in the online MSN program.
"When you go into this nursing program, you need to be focused and stay on top of all of those assignments," she said. "Don't say, 'Tonight, I'm tired.' Go ahead and do it anyway. You can easily get behind. Go into it with a determination that you can do anything.
"I like a scripture in the Bible that says, 'There's nothing impossible with God.' That's the way I look at my life now. Looking back, the bachelor's degree was so huge, it was like a giant -- it was something I once thought I couldn't accomplish. I've had people in my life tell me what I can't do, and I didn't have the tools to think I could do it. I took one class at a time. Then, I checked each one off. I have a 3.4 GPA. Just don't give up."
Learn more about the UNCW online RN to BSN program.
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