Student Spotlight: Denise’s Nursing School Journey

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This is what I was supposed to do.

Denise didn’t know exactly what she wanted to be after she completed her first bachelor’s degree. After spending years in pharmaceutical sales, she finally decided it was time to follow her heart. Her heart was telling her to become a nurse. This is her nursing school journey.

Utica ABSN student, Denise

Deciding to Get a Second-Degree: Become a Nurse

Denise got her first degree from the University of Central Florida in Interdisciplinary Studies. “Which means I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she says.

She thought about marketing, then teaching, but eventually went into pharmaceutical sales. That’s when it clicked that nursing was what she truly wanted to do.

“It was very high pressure,” she says. “In all that time, what was driving me wasn’t the sales number. It was the results of what I was selling. Ultimately, I was driven by the patient care.”

Why Utica College?

Denise applied to another nursing school first that was closer to home, but the school told her they weren’t sure when she could start the program. They said because she didn’t have a perfect 4.0 GPA from her first bachelor’s degree, she probably would have to apply multiple times before getting in.

“Having a 3.5 GPA, the school told me they couldn’t guarantee I’d get in,” she says. “They said I could get in by the third time I applied though.”

When Denise learned about Utica College and its admissions requirements, she was pleased to see the school evaluated applicants on a wide range of factors, not only a prior GPA. But she was nervous about applying because of the fact it was out-of-town and nursing school is an investment. But the benefits outweighed her concerns.

“I couldn’t wait that long to go to school,” says Denise. “I figured if I waited to get into that college on the third time around, I could already be done with Utica College’s ABSN program. In fact, I’d be done almost two years sooner!”  

She decided to go for it. “I already had a bachelor’s degree, obviously, so this was a really good fit and I got started,” she says.

She applied and was accepted. Her start date was four weeks later.

Getting Started

The whirlwind of getting accepted, moving and starting nursing school in a matter of a few weeks was overwhelming for Denise at first.

“Did I struggle in the beginning? Was I behind in catching up?  Yep, sure was. But I figured it out,” she says.

Once she settled in and let go of her nerves, Denise started getting good grades, eventually, she made the Dean’s List.

The Truth about Online Courses

The online coursework at Utica College is intense and that comes as a surprise for many students.

“For procrastinators, you have got to get your time management skills in order before you can even think about doing an online program because a lot of it is on your shoulders,” she says. “Here, you accept a lot more responsibility to learn.”

Denise says there are a lot of students who need to work to support their families, but you can’t have a full-time job and do this program, even though the coursework is online. The program is so intense.

“It does take a lot of time, and I think for some people that’s a misconception,” says Denise. “They think ‘Oh this is just an online program so I can still work full time and do this.’ That’s not the case.”

Also, a misconception from online coursework is that there is no connection with the professor. But Denise says that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We now have a professor whose name is Donna Gregory. You look at her and you’re like, wow, someone cares about my education, someone cares about my learning, someone’s asking me interactive questions on a conference call,” she says.

“It really makes you feel like there’s a professor who really cares about your learning.”

Hands-On Experiences

Before students can interact with patients in clinical rotations, they are trained on simulated patients in the skills labs.

“I really enjoy lab and the hands-on experience,” says Denise. “We just started the semester with simulation labs, which is terrifying and wonderfully educational at the same time because what are you going to do with a patient? It’s better to practice on a simulated patient than on a real patient.”

During the first semester, students start clinical rotations. First up in Med-Surg which is when students like Denise learn the fundamentals of nursing in a hospital environment.

“Med-Surg is good, it gives you a good idea of what it’s like to be like on a normal nursing floor,” she says. “You’re following a nurse, and you’re figuring it out. You’re seeing how they make these decisions, how they use time management, how they talk to patients, how they explain things to patients so that we are going to be really prepared when we get to that next step.”

And it was during that next step of clinicals that Denise learned the importance of trusting her gut and advocating for your patient. She caught a mistake by one of the nurses she followed and pointed it out. Denise says this is when she realized exactly how much she was getting out of the ABSN program.

“Those are the moments that you’re like, wow, I did learn something. There is a difference,” she says.

Are you Ready?

To learn more about Utica College’s accelerated nursing program, contact us today. A dedicated admissions representative can help you create a plan to get you on the right path to becoming a nurse.

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