After earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from Arkansas State University (A-State), Britney James knew she would soon return for the next phase of her higher education.
“I was hearing around the workplace about how different hospitals wanted their RNs to go back to school to get their bachelor’s degree, which was my initial motivation,” she said.
“I looked at some other schools, but I was pretty set on going back. I had such a positive experience at A-State in the associate degree program.”
James lives in Southaven, Mississippi, and graduated from the online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at A-State in 2017.
“The online format made it manageable to get it done,” she said. “The classes were flexible. I didn’t have to go to school full time. It was at my own pace, which was helpful.”
But James wasn’t done with Jonesboro yet. She graduated from the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) — Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program in May 2022 after sitting out a year because of COVID-19.
“I had another positive experience in the RN to BSN program, so I went back to A-State again,” she said. “Plus, I was already familiar with the online system and Blackboard for the online courses in the master’s degree program. It was a win-win.”
James grew up in West Memphis, Arkansas, where she knew which direction she would take after graduating from high school.
“I felt like nursing was a calling for me,” she said. “I remember somebody asking me during my junior year of high school what I was considering going for, and I told them, ‘nursing.’ I always wanted to get into the healthcare field.”
After earning an associate degree at A-State, James gained real-world experience by starting her career as a Licensed Practical Nurse.
“I did a lot of long-term care in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities,” she said. “Once I went back to A-State for the RN to BSN program, I did a lot of work in med-surg, hospice, the emergency room and the intensive care unit.”
While enrolled in the online bachelor’s degree program, she was an RN at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, where she worked for four years.
“I was working part time while I was in the RN to BSN program,” she said. “I was able to use the information that I was learning right away at my job.”
Forensic Nursing, an upper-level elective, was her favorite course in the program curriculum.
“That was something I had not learned about before,” she said. “I didn’t know if I would find myself doing it one day, but the information I learned in that course was very interesting. I always remember it the most.”
Especially with the benefit of hindsight and having also completed a master’s degree at A-State, James believes that her experience as an undergrad paid off in more ways than one.
“I got good value out of the program,” she said. “Going through the RN to BSN program also gives you a little bit of a leg up in the interview process when you’re looking for jobs.”
James, a first-generation college graduate, had a strong support system in place with her family each time she earned a degree at A-State. She credits her aunt, Consuelo, with convincing her to enroll in the MSN-FNP program.
“Once I did the RN to BSN program, I was pretty much done with school,” she said. “My aunt has had a lot of health issues, and we were talking about her experience with healthcare when she told me, ‘Britney, we could use some passionate providers like you to help take care of the people.’
“That inspired me to go back to A-State for the master’s degree. My family knew my character as a nurse. I am glad that I did it.”
At the commencement ceremony for the online RN to BSN program, James found a pleasant surprise waiting for her.
“It was fun,” she said. “I sat beside and walked with one of the girls from my ADN program at commencement. I didn’t know she was in the RN to BSN program. That was cool.”
With a master’s degree under her belt, James looks forward to re-entering the workforce and applying all she has learned to the next chapter of her career.
“I want to go into women’s health,” she said. “That’s another thing I knew early, although it took me a while to get there. I have a passion for women’s health.”
James, who enjoys fishing in her free time, said that preparation is the key to success in the online RN to BSN program.
“Plan everything out before you get started,” she said. “Make sure that your family, the outlay of the program and the job are all planned out on the front end to make it run smoother.
“It’s easier doing the program part-time. Plus, it’s a very flexible program — especially if you have a plan on the front end. I had a good experience at A-State all three times.”
Learn more about A-State’s online RN to BSN program.