Jevon Morris needed a new career. Stat.
“I never thought about nursing until I lost my job in 2009,” Morris said. “Somebody said, ‘You ought to go into nursing.’ I looked at them and laughed. I said, ‘Yeah, right … whatever.’ They said, ‘Seriously, I think you’d make a good nurse.’ My whole journey to nursing began as nothing but an academic research project.”
Morris graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s RN to BSN online program in May 2017. He added thissecond bachelor’s degree to go along with a master’s degree and an Associate of Nursing degree.
“I have other skill sets, but nursing was the only one that answered all of the questions I kept asking,” Morris said. “When I first decided to investigate this, I had no idea about the nursing field and what it entailed. I had never been sick, never been in a hospital, never had any family member who had been sick.
“The other thing is I had never seen a black male nurse in my life. Ever. I didn’t have anything against it, I had just never seen one. I don’t even remember seeing one on TV. So, when somebody said, ‘You should be a nurse,’ they might as well have said, ‘You should be an astronaut.'”
However, Morris knew he made the right call once he gave nursing a shot.
“I began that process having never even taken care of a person in my life, never even so much [as] seen the inside of a nursing home or sick people,” he said. “I started this whole journey never even knowing if I would like doing it. It just made sense. I had to do something. I got into and loved it. And I’m very good at it.”
Morris earned a bachelor’s degree while wrestling at Appalachian State University. He was originally a computer science major for two semesters.
“I didn’t want to live in the lab all of the time,” he said. “I was going to change to physics, then I settled on applied math. I thought I would work in industry, like as an engineer. I was a systems engineer for about 10 years, but I worked in manufacturing and worked with computers. I did what I originally went to school for — just through the back door.”
Morris also earned a Master of Business Administration and taught as an adjunct at Gardner-Webb University, taught high school for one year and owned three small businesses. When he lost his job, Morris was working as a director of business and industry in the continuing education program to help local manufacturing companies recruit and train at Western Piedmont Community College in North Carolina.
“I loved manufacturing,” he said. “I love it to this day. I love the challenges of going in every day and trying to make a product better, faster, cheaper. I love that whole concept. I love manufacturing, but I don’t like being unemployed. When it comes down to it, ‘Do you want a job in manufacturing? No, I want a job tomorrow.’ I don’t want anybody to come in and say, ‘We just sold out to such and such, and they are going to replace a third of you.’ I don’t want to do that again.”
Once Morris decided to go to nursing school, he created a spreadsheet comparing all of his options.
“I’m a Type A personality to the nth degree, and I research everything,” he said. “I research buying a piece of gum. I had rows and columns with all of the BSN programs in North Carolina. I compared tuition rates, length of programs, graduation rates of the schools and the cost of public programs versus private programs … I compared everything.”
Morris said he settled on UNCW primarily because it offered multiple start dates.
“They admit six times a year,” he said. “You don’t come in with a cohort and have to go with the same group. I was able to start in January. Had they not had that, I might have had to wait another year. I knew I was going to do it, but I didn’t know when.
“My original plan was to work one complete year as a nurse, then go back so I could have a little bit to bring to the classroom. When I finally said, ‘Okay, I’m ready to go back,’ I started looking at schools and had missed all of the deadlines. I would not have been able to start until the fall of 2016. That’s the thing I sell people on UNC Wilmington all of the time. It’s my flagship banner. You can be thinking about it today and start pretty quick because another start is coming up.”
Morris said his diverse business background has given him an edge in his new profession. He is a travel nurse contractor for Cross Country TravCorps and a PRN nurse for Catawba Valley Medical Center in North Carolina.
“Even though I’m late getting into this game, I bring a different perspective about work, work ethic and business than my counterparts,” he said. “A lot of things I learned in manufacturing, the hospital and healthcare are just now starting to talk about, like ‘lean’ and ‘running a lean environment.’ We were talking about that 20 years ago in manufacturing.”
Morris said he adapted well to the online format and was able to fit it in easily with his busy schedule.
“It took a little bit of adjustment the first semester, but pretty much the way the program is laid out is pretty consistent and even from course to course as far as your time requirements and your due dates for your assignments,” he said. “That makes things a lot easier. It took me a minute to figure that out. You’d have a post due on Wednesday and have a response due by Friday in every single class. It was always the same. That consistency really helps students to manage the program.”
Morris said one of his favorite courses was Professional Nursing Practice for the Baccalaureate Nurse [NSG 316].
“I like that it went into detail you don’t normally get,” he said. “In the Associate of Nursing degree program, you don’t get the detail you get in the health professional course. Unless you’ve worked in healthcare before, a lot of the stuff really doesn’t click or make sense.
“After you’ve been working for a while and you’ve been doing assessments and picking up things from this person or that preceptor, and you kind of have an idea of what you’re doing, to go back and get a study of academia on what you’re supposed to be doing — it all clicks and really makes sense.”
Morris was also able to apply his love of research and spreadsheets for a group project in the online RN to BSN program.
“We were tasked to talk about getting our BSNs,” he said. “I took it upon myself to do a spreadsheet, but I got members of my group to research the individual schools. They all submitted the information back to me; then I compiled it and shared it with the whole class.”
Morris said he might not be quite done adding to his extensive higher education.
“All of my friends say, ‘What are you going to school for now?'” he said. “I’m never not in school. Now, they say, ‘Are you going to get your Ph.D.?’ I don’t know about that, but I might get my Master of [Science in] Nursing. We’ll see. I think that will be my last one.”
For Morris, the best thing about nursing is job security.
“I had a couple of my buddies who were like, ‘Get back into computers and programming. I can get you a job in Colorado,'” he said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t want to move to Colorado. I want to get into a career where if I do want to move to Colorado, I can get a job. If I want to move to Spokane, Washington, I can get a job. If I want to move to Baltimore, Maryland, I can get a job.’
“My advice to people considering going back to school is, ‘Why wait? Why aren’t you already signed up? You’re not already in class? Get it done. What are you waiting on?'”
And, of course, don’t be afraid to try a new career.
“As I started doing research on the internet, I found that nursing wasn’t what I thought it was — it was so much more and way bigger than I thought it was,” Morris said. “There was a lot more opportunity than I ever imagined. The more I researched, the more I found out about nursing, the more I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is pretty cool.'”
Learn more about the UNCW online RN to BSN program.
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