Materria Strickland agreed to complete a bachelor's degree within five years of being hired at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina, to help maintain the hospital's Magnet status.
By the time she graduated from the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in May 2019, her job status changed. Strickland landed a position working as a case management nurse at the same hospital for an immediate return on investment.
"All I had to do was submit my diploma when it came in the mail," she said. "I started the new position in July. I like the job. I like the consistency and having a normal schedule. I miss the bedside, so I pick up shifts every other week on the floor to keep up my skills. I love that I can have the best of both worlds!"
Strickland chose UNCW for the online RN to BSN program's multiple start dates — Fall I, Fall II, Spring I, Spring II, Summer I and Summer II.
"Because UNCW had six start dates, I was able to tailor it to my life needs at that time," she said. "Plus, you can always start, stop for a little while and start back up. I kind of stretched it out. It was convenient with the six start dates."
Additionally, Strickland could add school to her busy schedule without missing a beat.
"The flexibility is big," she said. "I initially thought I had to change my schedule and work weekends only. I did that for a while, but then I realized I would be okay working a regular schedule due to the flexibility of the program. That was a benefit."
Strickland grew up about 20 miles outside of Greenville. Her mother, Melissa, inspired her to take her education seriously and pursue a career in the healthcare field from an early age.
"My mom is a healthcare partner and encouraged me to work in the direction of nursing," she said. "From the encouragement she gave me I've made it into a successful nursing career. She earned a degree in social work. I think she was more excited about me earning a bachelor's degree than I was."
After graduating with an Associate Degree of Nursing from Pitt Community College in 2015, Strickland started working as a medical-surgical nurse at Vidant. She enrolled in the online RN to BSN program at UNCW two years later.
"I liked the online format a lot because it's not a typical semester like with normal college programs — it's only seven weeks," she said.
NSG 321: Gerontological Nursing and the End of Life Care was Strickland's favorite course in the curriculum — not surprising, given her desire to serve the geriatric population.
"The course was exciting because I got to dig a little deeper and learn more about older adults," she said.
Strickland also appreciated the support from the nursing faculty at UNCW throughout her time in the bachelor's degree program.
"The professors are good about getting back to you when you have a question. They would often provide their cell phone numbers and say that they were always available."
Return to the Nest
Although Strickland might not have been exactly enthusiastic about returning to college to complete a bachelor's degree, her experience at UNCW changed her opinion, as well as her career trajectory.
"I don't want to say I was forced, but completing a bachelor's degree was a requirement when I signed my contract," she said. "[Now], I frequently recommend the RN to BSN program. When my new nurse colleagues ask me about degree programs, I always tell them that UNCW is very flexible."
Her experience was so good that she's planning to be a Seahawk again, with her sights set on a UNCW Master of Science in Nursing program in March 2020. She is excited about furthering her education, making her mom even prouder and building on the foundation the RN to BSN program laid for her future.
"Ultimately, I am deciding between becoming a director of nursing practice versus a nurse educator," she said. "My biggest takeaway from the bachelor's degree program was learning about professionalism in the nursing world."
Strickland is happy she works for a hospital that made sure she would enhance her education and that she was able to maintain her full-time job in the process.
"It's doable – just don't give up," she said. "I was absolutely able to use the information from the program at my job. Plus, the BSN has already opened doors for me in case management. It was a good experience."
Learn more about the UNCW online RN to BSN program.
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