North Carolina native Mandy Triplett successfully changed careers from teaching to nursing, but she remains an educator at heart.
"You can't just teach kids anymore -- there is so much more to it," she said. "I had a bad experience one day when I was teaching in middle school. I finished out that school year, but I realized I was burned out and could not be effective anymore. I like helping people. Nursing made sense."
Triplett graduated from the Master of Science in Nursing Nurse Educator online program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in August 2018. She is an RN in the education department at Nash University of North Carolina Health Care, where she has worked for 14 years.
"I went into the MSN program thinking I would go into academia," she said. "I was at the bedside then, so I thought that was the only avenue I could take. Now that I have been in the MSN program, met the people and seen the avenues it has taken me, I realize professional development is where I want to remain. I want to stay in acute care and help our current nurses grow and continue to learn."
Triplett also graduated from UNCW with a bachelor's degree in 1999. She earned an Associate Degree in Nursing from Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and then started an RN to BSN program at Liberty University before transferring to UNCW for the MSN.
"My undergraduate degree is one of the reasons I came back," she said. "I met Erica Green, who is a recruiter for UNCW. She said, 'Your health and physical education degree is part of our health sciences, so you can go directly into the MSN program because it's in the same school of science.' That's how I landed at UNCW. I saved a whole lot of money and got my master's degree in half the time."
The flexibility of the online MSN Nurse Educator program was important to Triplett, given her full-time job and two daughters, Mikaela (10) and Zoey (6).
"There were a lot of late nights," she said. "What's nice is I'm in an educator role at my hospital. I'm not at the bedside, so it really fits well. The flexibility is big. I also have a supportive faculty at work, which is helpful."
Even when faced with unforeseen situations at work that hindered Triplett's schoolwork, the UNCW nursing professors were always accommodating.
"I never had a problem emailing an instructor and saying, 'Hey, this came up.' They said, 'We understand you're a professional and you're full-time. You're trying to grow, and we are going to work with you,'" she said. "I spent between 10 and 12 hours a week on school. It's doable."
Triplett, whose specialty is dialysis, especially enjoyed the NSG 592: Test and Rubric Construction course taught by Dr. RuthAnne Kuiper, who will be retiring soon.
"I like how we test out what we were being taught when we evaluate people and we're not just doing it because we have to have a grade," she said. "It made everything have a reason."
All of the curriculum was applicable to Triplett's career, in particular NSG 596: Nursing Education Practicum in which she worked on an innovation education project, something that's right up her alley.
"I'm getting to use what I learned in the whole program in my day-to-day work," Triplett said. "I'm improving the whole education of my staff and getting credit for it. I have already taken a couple of the projects and implemented changes at my professional level and made it better."
Head of the Class
Triplett is excited to complete her higher education. Her husband, Brian, and daughters are also proud of her achievement.
"My husband says he married a professional student," she said. "My family is excited for me and proud of me. My daughters think it's pretty cool to do homework with mom. They know that mommy was a nurse who took care of people, and now she takes care of the people who take care of the people. I really get to model what I expect out of them."
Triplett hopes the online MSN Nurse Educator degree will help her advance her career at Nash UNC Health Care. She was so impressed with the online program at UNCW that she convinced two of her colleagues to also enroll.
"My co-workers are happy," she said. "This is going to help me get to the next level at work. Beyond a master's degree, there isn't room for anything else for me. Everybody at work is excited because I think the plan is for me to take over our education department. This is going to put me in the seat for that."
In December 2018, Triplett plans to put the exclamation on the master's degree by taking a second walk across the UNCW graduation stage. She said the biggest key to arriving at that destination is stepping up to the starting line.
"If you're ready to do it, do it," she said. "Don't say, 'When x, y and z happens, then I'll do it,' because it will never happen. Don't procrastinate. You're not too old, you're not too young. Money is not an excuse -- there's money out there. There are loans, grants, scholarships. If you're waiting for the perfect time, you're not going to find it. Just do it."
Learn more about the UNCW online MSN Nurse Educator program.
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