From a young age, Simone Driggins’ career plan was to become an author of books. When the native Oklahoman headed off to college at the University of Central Oklahoma, she declared journalism as her major and thought her future was certain.
But along the way, Simone began thinking about other options—including nursing. “My mother had the nickname ‘Florence Nightingale,’ because she’s always helping people,” says Simone. “She taught me to live a purposeful life, to persevere, to impact humanity, to give back and encourage others and extend the greatest gift of all to others: love.”
Her mother’s influence led her to begin taking pre-requisites for nursing school at University of Central Oklahoma and research nursing schools in her area. Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City’s (OSU-OKC) Associate of Applied Science in Nursing fit the bill, and she enrolled, graduating from the program in 1991.
Gaining experience as a nurse
In the early 1990s, Simone moved to New York City to begin her career as a nurse in a hospital setting. She focused on maternal-child, but also gained experience in medical/surgical, PCCU, orthopedics, pediatric and adult physical rehab, and neurology. “I enjoy building a rapport with the patient and showing both them and their family I care, and teaching mothers how to care for baby and themselves,” she says. “I like connecting people to community resources.”
In 2004, Simone became a travel nurse, working in many different settings around the country, including antepartum, postpartum, newborn nursery, OB/GYN, maternal/child, NICU level 1, medical-surgical and emergency care.
School nursing and a life-changing introduction
After five years in travel nursing, the year 2009 brought a new opportunity to Simone. She joined Oklahoma City Public Schools as a school nurse. There, she became acquainted with an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Oklahoma, who was leading students in a community clinical at the elementary school where Simone was a nurse. When that person, Dr. Brenda Helmer, became an associate professor of nursing at American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences, she encouraged Simone to apply to the BSN Powered by SIMPath program.
“That was 2019,” she says. “So, almost 30 years after starting my journey, I re-entered college!” For Simone, earning a BSN was about increasing her knowledge and remaining competitive. “I want a spring board to advance my career opportunities and inspire younger nurses. I also am making sure I adhere to educational requirements of any employer and increase my earning potential.”
Achieving a milestone
After 10 months of hard work, Simone received her BSN degree with an impressive 3.97 GPA. She joined the Dean’s Council as well as the American Sentinel BSN Task Force. She celebrated with an impromptu ceremony attended by her mother and her mentor, Dr. Helmer, who lives near Simone in Oklahoma and presented Simone her diploma. The women gathered on the OSU-OKC campus, where Simone had graduated many years prior with her associate degree.
Simone says she has received great support and encouragement from her student success advisors and enrollment advisor. “They extended empathy and cheered me on, reassuring my every step,” she says. “My student success advisor just kept telling me, ‘Keep powering through and keep going,’ and that helped me. I enjoyed the weekly calls with our chair and the nursing friends I met through the program.”
Simone hopes to apply for multi-state nursing licensure so she can become a travel COVID vaccination nurse and work in clinics around the country—she currently works with the Oklahoma Medical Corp Reserve to assist with COVID clinics locally. She also continues to enjoy her role as a school nurse. And on a personal note, she wants to write the autobiography of her mother, Sylvia Pollard-Driggins, who was the first 1st Miss Black Oklahoma Queen, 1st Centennial Humanitarian Queen for Oklahoma and named a Remarkable Woman of Oklahoma. Long term, Simone plans to earn an MSN at American Sentinel.
“I would recommend American Sentinel for many reasons, including the professors who promote success and reach out to students, the diverse population of students, staff and professors, the affordable cost and the helpline techs that bring resolutions and calm,” she says. “American Sentinel adapts to the on-the-go parent who works full time. I learned to face my fears and take a leap of faith. And I’m so glad that I did and appreciative to the many people who helped me along the way.”
Inspired by Simone’s story? A BSN is ideal for nurses who want to expand their knowledge base, become more marketable and enjoy greater career stability and mobility. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of nursing and when you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more.
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