We’ve all met people who knew at an early age exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. For those of us who don’t yet have it all figured out, hearing these kinds of stories can be anxiety-inducing. The truth, though, is there’s no right time to decide what you want to do with your life — and no reason you can’t change careers later on.
When Brie left Arizona for college, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. In fact, it was one of her university’s general requirements that would spark her interest in health and, eventually, becoming a nurse. We caught up with her earlier this year to discuss life as an accelerated nursing student, how her previous degree prepared her for nursing school, and why she chose Concordia University–Portland’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track.
Discovering an Interest in Health
“In my previous undergrad, I had to take the required classes, and one was on the general health of college students,” says Brie. “I never thought about how behaviors that you learn as a child translate into your future health outcomes. It totally makes sense.”
Her interest in health was piqued. Only the university she was attending in Washington State did not have a traditional nursing program.
I feel like if they had a nursing program, I would have gone for it there.
So she opted to earn a degree in community health, and shortly after graduation began working at a children’s literacy camp, where subjects included nutrition education. It was everything she wanted in a job. However, that would all change when her husband was accepted into law school in Portland, Oregon.
“I just kind of floundered for a while and started working at a non-profit that I really liked, but they went through some hard financial times,” explains Brie. “Fortunately, I wasn’t laid off, but it kind of prompted me to reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life and how to accomplish that in the fastest way possible.”
That led her to Concordia University–Portland, where she could earn her nursing degree in as few as 16 months through the school’s Accelerated BSN track. Designed for students who already have some previous college experience, the ABSN track was perfect for Brie, allowing her the flexibility to continue working as a nanny several hours a week, as well as to pursue other hobbies, like hiking. Not only that, “There were so many start dates, which sold me as well, because I didn’t want to be in school while my husband was in law school,” she says.
He graduated in May, and I got started in August, so it was a wonderful transition.
Getting into Nursing School
Of course, getting into the program involves more than just filling out an application. It starts with a phone call. In Brie’s case, she filled out the form to request more information on the Concordia ABSN website. The very next day, she received a call from an enrollment specialist, who explained how the program works and spent some time getting to know her. Specifically, he asked about her goals and reason for becoming a nurse, as well as provided instructions for submitting her transcripts.
In order to offer a quality nursing education in such a short time frame, Concordia University, like most accelerated nursing programs, requires prospective students to have completed certain prerequisites. Many of these courses provide students with a foundational understanding of related topics, such as biology, chemistry, nutrition, and the human body.
Fortunately, Brie’s previous degree in community health prepared her well for nursing school; she only had to take two prerequisite courses — one she hadn’t taken and one that expired — to fulfill the program requirements.
In addition to talking to an enrollment specialist and completing the nursing school prerequisites, prospective Concordia ABSN students must attend an in-person interview as part of the enrollment process. This is to ensure a good fit, and that the student has what it takes to become a nurse.
While Brie confesses she was a little terrified about the in-person interview, she says everyone at the school made it warm and inviting.
I thought the interviews would be a lot more intimidating than they were. Everyone was really welcoming.
“They really emphasize when you’re interviewing with someone else to look at this like they’re a colleague or another member of your cohort and to enhance each other,” says Brie.
7 Tips for Succeeding in Concordia’s Accelerated BSN Program
Now well into the program with graduation fast approaching in December, Brie reflects on life as an accelerated nursing student, and specifically what it takes to be successful in a fast-paced program that combines online coursework, hands-on skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations.
1. Hold yourself accountable.
Of the online coursework in particular, she stresses, “You have to have this drive to succeed,” she says. “Because it’s not like we have a scheduled lecture time, so you have to hold yourself accountable, learn the material, and reach out when you need help.”
Reaching out when you need help also means getting to know your cohort, forming study groups, and taking advantage of instructors’ office hours, because as Brie says, “The instructors are amazing.” If you don’t think something was clear, let your instructor know. Everyone learns differently, so you may just need something explained differently.
2. Make studying a habit.
Speaking of studying, keep in mind that in nursing school, waiting until the night before the big test to study will not get you far. You’re going to cover a lot of content in a short period of time, and that requires making study a weekly — or even daily — habit.
3. Show up prepared.
It also means showing up for the skills labs having completed the assigned coursework. “You have to come prepared,” she cautions. “Are you ready to do what you need to do? Because the only one who is going to suffer is you. You’re going to feel unprepared when you go to clinical and simulation [lab], so you have to do the work ahead of time.”
4. Learn from your mistakes.
However, this is not to say you won’t make mistakes in labs. The beauty of skills and simulation labs is that they provide the opportunity to practice in a safe, controlled environment where you can learn from your mistakes.
It’s great practice at how you’re going to think about this, because my background is not in healthcare.
“It can be intimidating,” Brie says, “but the professors will always be supportive, and even if you make a mistake, the professors will say, ‘At least it was here, and now you know what to do differently.’”
In fact, following simulations, your lab group will participate in debrief sessions in which you discuss what was and was not done correctly, other related issues and concerns, and more. This allows students to learn not just from scenarios they participated in but also those that other students participated in.
5. Set a schedule (and goals).
For Brie, setting a schedule helps her to stay on top of her studies, ensuring she never misses an assignment or lab. “The very first day we get access to Blackboard [the online learning management system], I print everything out. Then I just add due dates to my calendar. Some people go week by week; I get the big scheme of things first so I can see which weeks are going to be heavier than others in terms of the timing and expectations,” Brie explains.
“Every week I sit down and I make an outline of what I have to do and when I have to get it done by, and then before I go to bed every night, I make a list of three things that I have to get done to have a reward for myself.” For Brie, a reward could be something simple like watching a TV show or buying a latte.
6. Take advantage of additional learning opportunities.
“The textbooks have wonderful resources that I don’t feel like a lot of the students know how to utilize or use,” says Brie of the links to supplementary interactive case studies found online. “Often, how we [her study group] would study is we would just pull up a case study, talk about it, and see what we needed to do.”
7. Use the counseling services available to you.
All Concordia University–Portland students are welcome and encouraged to take advantage of the free academic, career, mental health, and personal counseling services available to them. “Remember that as a student, even an online student, you have access to the counseling center, because it’s hard,” says Brie.
You need to be able to talk about it and get the skills — if you’re overwhelmed — to manage that stress.
Don’t Put Off a Rewarding Career in Nursing
Life as an accelerated nursing student can be challenging — requiring self-discipline, hard work, and a lot of studying — but it will be well worth it when you graduate ready to sit for the NCLEX, the last step toward a rewarding career in nursing.
If you feel called to a career in nursing, don’t wait. Give us a call today to find out how you can earn your BSN degree in as few as 16 months with Concordia University–Portland’s ABSN track.