The Utica College accelerated nursing program in New York gives students the opportunity to have the career they've dreamed of in 16 months. Jessica West decided to turn her first bachelor's degree into a rewarding career in nursing. Here's her story.
What was your first bachelor’s degree in and where did you study?
I earned my first degree from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. I was pre-med and graduated with a bachelor's degree in health science with a minor in biology.
What did you do before returning to school to be a nurse?
I volunteered at Robins Nest where I worked with children who had behavioral issues. I also worked alongside therapists and counselors, observing child/parent interactions to determine whether or not that child was safe and taken care of in the home to determine if Child Protective Services needed to intervene. I continued my schooling as well, taking classes in biology, chemistry, counseling, death and dying, psychology and child psychology. This was a way for me to see what else was out there and rule out professions that weren’t a good fit for me.
I also worked as a waitress, which was surprisingly beneficial. It taught me a lot about people and interacting in a professional setting with coworkers and helped to build up my social skills and ability to talk to strangers.
Why did you return to school to pursue a career in nursing?
I always knew that I wanted to do something in the medical field. My senior year of college, I realized that going to medical school was not a part of that plan. Being 22, graduating college and having no idea what I wanted to do scared me, so I made the best decision I could and took a few years off. During that time, I took several classes and explored career options and always came back to two things: I wanted to work with children and I wanted to be in the medical field. Once I finally came to that realization, I began to think about what type of career would best suit my future goals. I knew that spending time with the patient was a must. I wanted to make a connection with the patient and their family. Having had skin cancer at 17, I can still remember the nurse who was there during my surgery. She made a lasting impression on me. After researching it more, I recognized nursing was the perfect fit and gave me the life I wanted for myself.
What drew you to the Utica College Accelerated Second Degree Nursing Program?
I loved that it was an accelerated hybrid program. This allowed me to have the flexibility to complete assignments at my own pace on my own time, yet still gave me the traditional lab setting that I always enjoyed in college. Another great aspect was that I could begin in August instead of waiting until January or the following fall, and I could be done in 16 months. That was huge!
Although I had basically made up my mind regarding the college, once I spoke to the staff of the program, it was a done deal. They were so welcoming and friendly and answered all of my questions. From the second I began researching to today, I am so thankful for their guidance and support. I researched other programs and spoken to different admissions counselors, but none of them had what Utica College had. My admissions advisor was a godsend and helped me through the entire process.
Did you relocate for the program?
I relocated from a town in New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia. It is roughly four hours away, which is nice because if I need to go home for any reason, I am not too far away. Liverpool, New York, is a great area and so close to Syracuse, which has so much to offer!
What do you like best about the program?
I really enjoy the lab. Not only does it give me a traditional classroom and lab experience, but it is also a lot of fun! It is good to become proficient in different skills and techniques and then be able to take what I've learned and use it in clinical. It is also a great place to get to know the other people in the program. Since I am not from the area, this time allows me to bond with other people in the program and build new friendships.
What do you feel is the greatest strength of the program?
I would say the staff is the program's greatest strength. The program is extremely challenging and fast paced. Without their support and guidance, it could become very overwhelming very fast. They are always there for you and know exactly what you are going through and what they can do to help you become successful. They are always willing to lend an ear and help you through any difficult situation you may be experiencing. Being successful academically is extremely important, but staying true to yourself and allowing yourself to grow as a person as well as academically is also important. The staff helps to guide you to become successful in the program, as well as the best possible nurse you can be.
Do you feel this program is preparing you for a career in nursing?
Absolutely. The clinical aspect of this program allows you to get hands-on training beginning the eighth week of your first semester, which is extremely beneficial because it allows you to put what you have learned into practice on real patients, not just on classmates or a simulation mannequin. It is one thing to be able to perform well in a comfortable and safe environment around your classmates, but to go into a real clinical setting and be able to perform is completely different and much more challenging. I believe by going to clinical hours early on in the program, you are more prepared for what it will be like as a nurse and gain so much experience and knowledge that you wouldn’t get from a textbook. Through hands-on experience in the clinical setting, the program allows us to feel comfortable in a hospital, understand how a hospital unit runs, teaches us to interact with other nurses and doctors, and more importantly, with patients. It is an invaluable experience that absolutely prepares you for a career in nursing.
Any advice for those about to enroll?
Enroll! You will not be disappointed. The program is intense and overwhelming at times but so worth it! If becoming a nurse in a shorter amount of time is what you want, then take the chance and apply. I promise it will be the best decision you have made! You have to be prepared to work really hard—harder than you have ever worked in your life probably—but the rewards of the hard work make it all worthwhile!
If you're ready to earn your bachelor's degree with a major in nursing, contact us today.