Rhea T. Williams, BSN, RN, BS is a married mother of two, a U.S. Air Force veteran and has worked as an ICU nurse in Germany and the US. She shares her experience as an online student pursuing her RN-BSN degree at UofL and details how the degree has made a difference in her career.
Tell us a little about your career path leading up to your decision to enroll at UofL.
“I came to nursing after working in other areas of healthcare for a few years. As a first generation immigrant to the U.S., I witnessed first-hand the struggle of trying to access healthcare and dealing with all other seemingly more pressing aspects of every-day life.
My career in nursing is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to become a primary healthcare provider. After the completion of my associate’s degree, I began working as a critical care nurse in an Intermediate Care Unit (IMCU) in inner city Baltimore. I went on to become a Cum Laude graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing for Registered Nurses at University of Louisville while living in Germany, and I currently work as an ICU nurse at a large hospital and PRN ICU at a small community hospital. In addition to my degrees in nursing, I also hold a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.”
What motivated you to pursue an RN-BSN online program?
“My job as a critical care IMCU nurse in Baltimore placed me on the front lines of working with under-served populations. Most of the clients were uninsured and sought healthcare assistance only after multiple problems had compounded into complex cases. Even though I worked on the IMCU, our ICU at that facility was so small that we cared for clients that normally would be ICU patients at other hospitals.
It was a great learning experience and propelled me to further my education in Nursing so that I could be of greater assistance to those with the greatest need. I decided that I wanted to complete a bachelor’s in nursing and hopefully continue on to the FNP one day.”
Why did you choose UofL’s online RN-BSN?
“I chose UofL after much deliberation, because I knew that I would be completing the majority of my degree while living in Germany. It was important to me that the process of completing my degree was as streamlined as possible and that everything would be as accessible to me as if I was living in the United States.
While there are several wonderful universities in my home state of Maryland, I was searching for a school that would be able to tailor the program to my unique circumstances, while having the support systems of a large university. Of course it didn’t hurt that UofL is an amazing school with a great reputation in the academic world.”
What did you like best about the RN-BSN program at UofL?
“My favorite classes were A&P and Pharmacology, mostly because I found them to be the most challenging. I really appreciated taking those courses, as some BSN programs do not require these two classes for graduation. I think that they really provide a solid foundation for becoming a better nurse and for pursuing graduate level studies.”
Do you have a favorite project you worked on in this program?
“My absolute favorite was the community health project at the end of the program. As I was in Germany I had to go out into the community, explore the German healthcare system and collect various health statistics. I spoke with German doctors, nurses and healthcare administrators about how they approach care and how the national insurance system works there. It allowed me to gain a better understanding of different approaches to healthcare that I might not have otherwise experienced.”
How did the 100% online format work for you?
“Well, as you can guess by now, the online format would be the only one that would work for me. Frankfurt, Germany is six hours ahead of Maryland, and so an 8:00 a.m. start for me was the middle of “snooze time” for everyone physically at UofL. I needed to be able to access my virtual classroom at any time and complete coursework as necessary.
We also spent a good portion of time traveling, which made it important that the system requirements were as universally standard as possible so that I could use most computers anywhere to complete class tasks and assignments on Blackboard.”
How has UofL’s RN-BSN program helped you in your current position?
“I feel the education I received at UofL gave me the confidence to go into ICU nursing knowing that I had a good academic foundation. As I said earlier, I really value the coursework requirements in this program. Every class was informative, applicable and relevant to the practice of nursing today. It also fostered a desire to make improvements in my individual practice of nursing.
I personally wrote and developed a mentorship program for new nurses at my hospital using the tools that I gained completing my degree at UofL. The benefits of a UofL education are prominent and palpable.”
What does your current career path hold for you? Where would you like to go?
“I am currently in the process of completing applications for graduate school — yes, back to school for me. I plan on becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner and heading back to some of those immigrant and underserved communities I hold dear to my heart. It is my goal to complete the DNP as a terminal degree in nursing, but I am not ruling out an additional Masters in Public Health like one of my UofL professors and mentors.”
What advice do you have for other online students considering enrollment at UofL?
“In order to be successful at online learning, honest self-evaluation is key. Know how you learn, what you need in order to complete coursework and tasks. Know when to ask for help. Your professors are there to help you and will do what is needed to ensure that you gain the knowledge if you are putting forth the effort.
All of my professors at UofL were always only a short email away. Just because you are a distance student does not mean that you do not have the same access and support traditional students do.”
Join nurses like Rhea on a path to success with UofL online learning!
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at UofL is designed for nurses with an associate degree or a nursing diploma. The program potentially qualifies registered nurses for higher earnings and a broader range of employment opportunities. This program also facilitates the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that 80% of nurses earn a BSN degree by the year 2020.
UofL’s online RN-BSN program was recently honored with a ranking of ninth in the nation for value and curriculum quality by affordablecolleges.com. Working nurses can complete the Bachelor of Science in Nursing in as few as five semesters, although students are welcome to take more time if needed.