How One Nursing Student Overcame Big Fears When Going Back to School

How One Nursing Student Overcame Big Fears When Going Back to School

Online Education Often Means a Series of Challenges and Satisfying Breakthroughs

For many students, education becomes an exciting journey, characterized by playing the role of the novice once again and having to over come the fear of failure. Here’s the real-life story of Kathie Pender, an American Sentinel University nursing student who acquired an MSN online. Kathie’s education experience gives us a look into the daily challenges and the subsequent breakthroughs that allowed her to become a successful adult student.

Kathie is a successful nurse living with her husband and two children in Northern Canada. She has always been very open about how much she loves her work as a nurse, yet she wanted to grow in her career. She felt that a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialty in Infection Prevention and Control stream was the right way to combine her business and nursing backgrounds with the nursing trends of the future, as nurses advance into strong leadership roles. Specifically, Kathie wanted to further her lifelong interest in nursing policies, governance, and business—a specialty area that combines behind-the-scenes nursing knowledge with real-world, clinical applications. “I wanted to know more about how policies actually work, and know how they impact the nursing environment,” she says.

Yet Kathie, like many adult students, wasn’t entirely sure what the adult education experience would actually be like. As is typical, she had reasonable doubts about what exactly would be asked of her, both intellectually and in terms of the impact her education would have on her schedule, family, and work commitments.

Learning to think in new ways

Kathie’s first challenge was to overcome was what she termed her “fear of the gray.” The “gray,” in Kathie’s case, was a concern that she wouldn’t thrive in an environment that required abstract thinking. She worried that she wouldn’t be able to grasp conceptual ideas, and that thinking in terms of broad concepts would conflict with her graduate training in business, which demands black-and-white solutions to problems.

Despite this concern, Kathie has thrived. She succeeded in overcoming her “fear of the gray” because she was able to identify with theories she had already been using in her own daily practice as a nurse. The new concepts merely expanded on what she already knew. And today, Kathie is using her new perspectives and insights to help her nursing colleagues understand what  health care policies mean to them clinically, professionally, and emotionally.

Here’s how Kathie explains it: “I broke the theories down piece by piece and compared them to my own nursing experiences. I found that theories are actually logical. They are truly systematic. They’re not conceptual gravy at all; theories are there for a purpose.” And she’s exactly right—nursing theories are meant to be the underlying structure and the base of logic, which is crucial for nursing’s ability to apply autonomous, critical thinking skills.

Juggling school, work, life, and family

Kathie Pender, MSN, RN

Kathie faced other daily challenges as well. She had doubts about her ability tobalance her work and home life.  As a full-time nurse administrator, she worried that she wouldn’t have the time to be a successful student or do the kind of networking needed to access information.  At the core of these concerns was her perception that her lack of advanced computer skills was a looming, ever-present disadvantage.

Fortunately, Kathie was able to overcome these challenges, as most online students do. (American Sentinel’s student services resources offer multiple forms of student support.) While Kathie did sacrifice some personal time and some sleep, she was able to come up with a schedule that empowered her success. “I got up at 5 a.m. and worked on class work until 7 a.m., when I’d leave for work. After work I’d fix dinner for the family along with lunches for the next day. Then in the evening I would read or study, usually from 6 to 8 p.m. On weekends, I could get a few more hours of study time in.”

Kathie was able to take a course per month and have them overlap. She opted to get her degree in a shorter time frame, so she stayed dedicated to a rigorous schedule. This dedication allowed her to complete her degree in less than two years.

Becoming comfortable with technology

Kathie’s next challenge was unfamiliarity with computers, and she overcame this through brief interventions of excellent technical support from American Sentinel University combined with timely feedback from her professors. These two factors provided Kathie with the confidence she needed and the assurance that she was making great progress.

“Courses are all in writing, so you can discuss them online. You can research them independently and receive feedback quickly,” says Kathie. She feels that the timeliness of the feedback allowed her to align her schedule with time needed to thoughtfully answer discussion questions.

And while technical support from American Sentinel helped Kathie manage the tactical side of using computers, the Internet, and online forums, she’s also grateful for advice from other students and from her circle of family and friends.  This transfer of knowledge helped her sharpen her computer skills quickly and advantageously.

Climbing the career ladder

Today, Kathie feels her newly earned MSN has enhanced her career greatly. “I am the Director of Nursing  using a skill set that balances advanced nursing with crucial critical thinking skills. I understand concepts on a deeper level; I now can research anything and write about anything pertaining to nursing. And that gives me tremendous credibility.”

Congratulations, Kathie! You have become a truly empowered nurse.

Empower yourself with knowledge through an online RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in case management, infection control, and executive leadership.


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