As a child, Nicole Clute knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. An ER nurse.
She was very specific in a fifth-grade paper. She wanted to "get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and work in the ER."
While things didn't turn out exactly as planned -- Clute currently works in pediatric nursing -- she still met her goal of earning a BSN when she graduated from A-State's online RN to BSN program in July 2016.
A Worthwhile Career
When Clute graduated from an associate RN program, she knew right away that she wanted to earn a bachelor's degree. She took a year to complete prerequisites that would enable her to enroll in A-State's RN to BSN program.
Clute, who lives in Clinton, Arkansas, and works at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, is making the most of her nursing career.
"Being a nurse is very rewarding," Clute said. "I get a lot of joy and fulfillment from it -- knowing that I help people go back to their everyday lives and live as close to a normal lifestyle as they can is what makes me happy."
The online format was Clute's only option for earning a BSN, given her very busy lifestyle.
"I have four children at home, and I'm married ... in order for me to go back to school, it was definitely something I would have to do online," she said.
"Online is very convenient for someone who has to work and have a family. I was able to do homework early in the morning before my kids got up. I was able to do homework at night when they went to bed. I could do homework on the weekends. I could study whenever it was most convenient for me, and I never felt like I wasn't able to be a mother.
"My day-to-day life stayed exactly the same ... we still had our normal family activities, we still took trips together, we didn't miss baseball games or basketball games," Clute said.
A Considered Choice
When it came to choosing an RN to BSN bridge program, affordable tuition ranked high on Clute's list of criteria. A-State fit the bill in this regard, but a few additional factors made it the right choice for her.
"What made me decide to go to Arkansas State University was my conversations with individuals prior to applying. I spoke with people who actually went to school here who had great things to say, and they loved it. I also made phone calls and talked to people who worked in the nursing department," she said.
Clute appreciates the personal attention she got when she was evaluating the program.
"Whenever I called, it wasn't the typical runaround that you get whenever you call other colleges. I was able to speak directly to instructors and directors in the nursing department, and that made me feel so much more comfortable, and like getting through this program online was actually something that would be doable," she said.
Once enrolled in the program, she found the instructors to be approachable, too.
"I absolutely loved the program at Arkansas State," said Clute. "The instructors were very friendly. They were quick to answer any questions that I had ... even though the only way I was able to contact them was mostly through the internet. I never felt like I was bothering them if I had to ask a question. It was a great experience."
Clute grew to love A-State for reasons that went beyond why she chose it.
"All of my experience with instructors and faculty and other individuals who work at Arkansas State University was amazing. I spoke to not only nursing instructors, I had to talk to financial aid officers and other people who work here.
"Every time I spoke to someone, I felt like my questions were welcomed and they were answered. I never felt like I was just another phone call. I felt like I was important to every single person that I spoke to," Clute said.
She feels a sense of belonging to A-State that she wasn't expecting from her fully online experience.
"I actually didn't come to school physically here, but I still feel like I'm part of the alumni, and I'm part of a large organization and a large family, ultimately.
"Being able to feel like I'm part of this college even though I was never actually physically here means a whole lot," she added.
Learning on the Go
The ease of keeping up with coursework helped Clute have a normal life as an online student.
"I was able to do a lot of my homework on my phone, actually. I could turn on my lectures and listen to them in the car whenever I would drive back and forth to work, so it was very easy to do on my phone as well as on my computer," she said.
Clute spent roughly eight to 10 hours per week on schoolwork, sometimes more. "It just depended on what assignments I had due that week," she said.
"I really enjoyed the Critical Care Nursing course. I am not a critical care nurse, so this class offered a lot of new content that I was not familiar with," Clute said. "I love to learn, so I found this class to be really interesting."
Clute found immediate use for the knowledge she gained.
"I learned many new skills during my bachelor's program that I was able to apply to my practice, including assessment skills, and an improved ability to think critically," she said. "Looking back, I see significant growth in my professional practice since completing my bachelor's degree."
She feels that earning the degree has helped with her current job, as well as opened new prospects.
"Having a bachelor's degree opens the door for many career opportunities. There are several different possibilities available to nurses when considering what field they want to work in. Holding a bachelor's degree allows more of these possibilities to be an option," Clute said.
Speaking of her motivation to earn a BSN, Clute said, "It was never a question of if I would go back. It was more an issue of when. My husband and I have four children, and we wanted to be sure the timing was right for our family."
And when that time came, Clute had a lot of support – and excitement – from her family and friends.
"They knew this was a goal of mine since I was a child, so they were happy to see me pursue it. I have a great support system between my parents, my in-laws and my friends."
"My hobbies mostly include caring for my family," said Clute whose children are all involved in multiple sports, with baseball/softball being the family favorite.
"Watching our kids do something they love never gets boring. When I do find time to myself, I love running. If I am not at the ballfield, you will likely find me out on a run!"
Clute grew up in the small town of Damascus, just outside of Clinton, where she dreamt of one day earning a bachelor's degree in nursing.
Don't Wait. Just Do It.
"I work alongside several other nurses, and whenever they're seeking their bachelor's and they're having trouble deciding where to go, I always recommend Arkansas State University," Clute said.
"I don't just tell people to go here because I went here. I really feel like it's something that everyone can do, especially other mothers who are trying to decide where they want to go, and they want to be able to continue their normal lifestyle."
Her advice to anyone considering A-State's online RN to BSN program is to go for it.
"Don't wait any longer. Just do it. Waiting isn't going to make it any easier -- it's just going to put it off longer. It's absolutely doable here. Like I said, I was able to do it and still be a mom and still work full-time. There's no reason to keep putting it off. Just do it."
Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program.