Lester had plans to play professional basketball overseas, but after witnessing a car crash, he could no longer ignore his desire to help people.
He recalls the chaotic scene: People running to where a taxi driver had run over a couple. Lifting up the cab. Panicking. Calling 911.
“Someone asked if there was a doctor or nurse in the area. … I felt helpless and wanted to be able to help them,” he says.
So when his path changed course, Lester recalled that feeling and knew exactly what to do next: take steps to become a nurse.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this. In some way, shape, or form, I’ve got to be able to help people on the spot.’ Once basketball fell through, there was no doubt in my mind that nursing was the thing I had to go into right away.”
While confident in his desire to take steps to become a nurse, Lester admits he was at first unsure of how exactly to make it happen. Below we share how he chose Utica College’s accelerated B.S. in Nursing program in Syracuse and the steps he took to transition from feeling apprehensive about his future to confident in his abilities to become a nurse.
Lester has family in the healthcare field — his uncle is a nurse and his dad is an LPN — so he had a basic understanding of what the job entailed and that he wanted to go to nursing school to fulfill his goal of helping people. But he didn’t have a clear idea of what came next. So he did what anyone interested in making a major life decision would do: researched programs online.
A New York City native, he knew many nursing schools in the city had wait lists, and he didn’t want to delay his acceptance into a program. He didn’t want to wait any longer than he had to after earning his undergraduate degree to become a nurse, so an accelerated nursing program was a priority to him.
Utica College’s ABSN program in Syracuse stood out for its fast pace — he could finish in as few as 16 months and choose from one out our three start dates per year — and how fast an admissions representative reached out to him after he requested more information.
He likened the entire admissions experience to the basketball recruitment process: “Someone contacted me right away and checked in with me each week to make sure I was on track … It felt like they were recruiting me,” he says. “That was the key reason (for choosing Utica) — they wanted me here.”
From the first call forward, Lester’s admissions representative took the time to understand his goals and map out a plan for him to complete all the prerequisites needed to be eligible to apply.
A biology major who transferred to another school to pursue a psychology major during his undergrad years, Lester already had many of the prerequisite courses completed. That fact shortened his path to becoming a nurse significantly. In fact, he learned he received provisional acceptance into the ABSN program while still finishing his last course.
“It was great to know that I was accepted, to know that finally, I got into a nursing school,” he says.
Lester says his commitment to go to nursing school and acceptance into our program felt that much more real — and intimidating — when he first sat down to attend the orientation sessions required of all new ABSN students.
While there, though, he had the opportunity to meet other members of his cohort, hear introductions from nursing school faculty and clinical instructors and hear from ABSN students already in the program.
Lester’s main takeaway from these presentations: Faculty members, clinical instructors and other staff members are always there to help if you need it.
“I remember thinking, ‘OK, they’re going to be able to help me. It’s small. Talking to professors back and forth, they’re going to know me personally,’” he says.
Aside from the intimidation of the program’s intensity and the amount of work required of him in such a short time span, relocating for nursing school brought its own set of anxieties for Lester.
“You move into a new area with no one you really know — no family, no friends — it’s nerve-wracking,” he says.
But because he spent so much time in labs and clinicals with instructors and members of his cohort, it didn’t take long for him to bond and develop a tight-knit local support network to make all the hard work feel more manageable.
“There’s not one person in the cohort who I haven’t had a conversation with. … We all generally love each other and understand what each other is going through.”
In addition to bonding over the intensity and rigor of the program, he recalls one trying incident that united him and members of his cohort even more: a friend in the cohort who died in a car accident.
“That brought us all together. It really helped us bond,” he says. “Some of our online professors who we never saw even came to the site, so we got to see them and got to know a little bit more about them. I did have that connection that we normally wouldn’t have had with them.”
Just as he felt apprehensive about not knowing anyone in Syracuse as he started our program, he also felt nervous about one major aspect of his nursing school experience: clinical rotations.
However, for Lester, clinicals started within the first seven weeks of his ABSN program experience, so he didn’t have long for his nursing school jitters to get the best of him.
While he admits he had qualms about working with patients so early into his nursing school education, in hindsight he says having that much practice early on helped him gain confidence as a nurse.
“It’s crazy how much we’ve grown since the first day of labs practicing to now introducing myself to patients with ease,” he says.
With graduation now behind him as of August 2017, Lester is setting his sights on nurse anesthetist school, which requires him to work a few years in a critical care setting.
For that and the ability to practice as a nurse to honor those who inspired him to pursue this new path, he credits the Utica College ABSN program, which instilled in him the confidence, knowledge and skills necessary to become a nurse.
“It’s a quality program. … You really learn a lot, as long as you put your mind to it and you’re not just trying to get by,” he says. “You put in the work, you’ll learn a lot and feel very qualified.”
Are you ready to change paths and put in the work to become a nurse like Lester? Reach out to a member of our admissions team today to learn how our 16-month ABSN program can help you accelerate your future.
Our ABSN has three start dates a year, so you can begin nursing school whenever you're ready.