Persistence pays off.
After failing out of a bachelor's degree in nursing program in December 2007, single mother Mekeilah Johnson regrouped and graduated from the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at Arkansas State in 2016. Johnson earned an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing from A-State two years earlier.
"My friends and family are ecstatic. My mother has been my rock and a huge asset to my success in nursing," Johnson said. "I was ready to graduate the first time I was in nursing school and didn't make the cut. I started completely over.
"It took a couple of years, but I jumped back in, got my Licensed Practical Nurse certification and did my associate degree and my bachelor's degree. Now, I'm enrolled in a family nurse practitioner program at Walden University that I'll finish in 2019."
Johnson, 37, is a nephrology nurse in dialysis in Memphis. She has two daughters, Jakeilah (17) and Tayélor (10).
"I planned to get a bachelor's degree after I earned an associate degree, but I didn't think that it was going to be so soon," she said. "I thought I was going to wait a little bit longer, but I wanted to get it while it was fresh on my mind and I was still in school mode. Go with the flow. Staying with Arkansas State made for a smooth transition in the RN to BSN program."
Johnson completed the associate degree program on the A-State West Memphis campus. However, for the bachelor's degree program, she needed a more flexible format.
"Online was better for my family life and my full-time job," she said. "I could do things at my own pace but still have a set schedule. It is a little pressing driving to campus, sitting in class and knowing you have so much to do.
"If you knew you had something to do while in the online program, you could go for it and then jump back on your schoolwork. I worked on classes about 20-25 hours a week. I've been in school for a long time, and online worked out much better."
Born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Johnson followed the footsteps of her mother, Arlene Hackett, into the nursing profession.
"As a little girl, when you see your mother doing something, you also want to try it out," Johnson said. "I truly love nursing. My mother has been a nurse ever since she was pregnant with me."
Johnson changed the focus of her nursing practice when a classmate in the online RN to BSN program suggested a new area of concentration.
"Dialysis was something I wanted to try," she said. "I did pediatrics and worked in a clinic before but none of those things stuck with me. Once I tried dialysis, I loved it and have been with it ever since."
As a result, Johnson gravitated more toward the courses in the curriculum focused on the medical-surgical aspect of nursing.
"I loved anything dealing with the disease process -- diagnoses and treatments," she said. "Mental health I wasn't so big on; it's doable, but I couldn't really grab it. I liked learning more about lab values, and noticing fluid and electrolytes came in handy with my job."
Johnson hopes she is providing a positive example for her daughters when it comes to higher education.
"Jakeilah and Tayelor have seen me in school their whole lives," Johnson said. "I pray that they pick up on some of these hard working habits and learn that they have to pace their own way and that life owes them nothing. Jakeilah is thinking about becoming a nurse, too. If she decides to choose that path, I'll steer her toward A-State."
Proud Red Wolf
Johnson is proud of everything she has accomplished after a rough start to college. Once she completes the FNP program, she plans on taking her nursing practice to the next level.
"I wanted to get in and get the master's degree program done in 18 months," she said. "I want to have my own family practice."
The foundation of that ultimate career goal started with A-State. Johnson believes any nurse with the right frame of mind can get on track -- or back on track -- in the online RN to BSN program.
"You have to stay focused," she said. "Just because it's online doesn't mean you shouldn't set goals and set a schedule for yourself. Set a schedule, stick with it and you'll stay ahead. Utilize all of your resources. If there's an online library or instructors willing to help, use all of your available resources."
Two years after graduation, Johnson still feels deeply connected to A-State and is extremely proud of her two degrees. In fact, she has an A-State license plate on her truck.
"The BSN already helped open doors for me," she said. "I started working in dialysis a little over three years ago. A-State is a great program. It's small and personalized. You could talk to your instructors and get feedback. It was amazing. It guided me to where I am now."
Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program.