David Dorris is a busy man, so he knew he’d need the convenience and flexibility of an online degree program when he was ready to go back to school. Dorris chose the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Arkansas State University, which he completed in May 2017.
Dorris works for two hospitals, while his wife, Julie, also works full-time. The couple also have two young children, David and Emma.
“We have it set up that way so we don’t have to use daycare,” he said. “I was able to watch my kids and still try to do schoolwork. It was more convenient for me, because I was able to do quizzes and tests sometimes after work on the weekends.”
Dorris has worked for NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital for five years and Arkansas Methodist Medical Center for three years. The online format was the ideal way to fit school around his hectic schedule.
“It was great,” he said. “There were realistic deadlines. I was able to complete my work on time. I didn’t have to leave anything behind. I didn’t have to stop working full-time. I didn’t have to stop raising my kids. I didn’t have to stop doing the things that I did. I was able to completely add this to my life instead of having to take something away from it to fill the void. The program is absolutely geared toward working nurses.”
Ahead of the Curve
Dorris, who graduated from Arkansas Northeastern College with an Associate of Nursing in 2013, wanted to earn a BSN on his own terms.
“I know that the healthcare industry, especially the Institute of Medicine, wants 80 percent of nurses to have BSNs by the year 2020,” he said. “I wanted to do that before it was required. I didn’t want to feel pressured. I wanted to do it of my own accord — that way it kind of felt good doing it.”
He initially became interested in a nursing career because he wanted to help others.
“I had a desire to do something that really mattered, something beneficial that would make the world a better place,” Dorris said. “I wanted to be able to support a family financially, and nursing was a great fit.”
Dorris planned to complete his bachelor’s degree sooner, but instead took a few classes at A-State sporadically before he enrolled in the online RN to BSN program.
“I missed school,” he said. “I hit a wall to where I had to get into a program — I had to finish it up. I was just kind of eating around the edges. I needed to go for it. My family and friends were supportive of me. They saw that I was restless and wanted to go back.”
Once he enrolled and started to take courses, Dorris was able to immediately apply the knowledge to his nursing practice.
“I was initially scared when I got in the program,” Dorris said. “Then, when I started reading the material, it was more familiar to me because I was a nurse for three years at that point. I thought that it’d be more foreign, but it was more applicable to the job I was doing every day. It was almost like I got to read about work, more in-depth.”
He said his two favorite courses in the curriculum were STAT 3233: Applied Statistics and NRSP 4793: RN to BSN Capstone.
“I liked the statistics class because it taught me how I could apply data collected and give it context and a purpose,” Dorris said. “I liked the capstone course because it allowed me to do an independent study to identify and tackle a problem I saw.”
Additionally, he found the course length helped him retain the material better than he had in courses with longer durations.
“The way that A-State courses are organized, it’s jam-packed, all-action, no filler,” Dorris said. “I kind of have a short attention span with the traditional 14- or 16-week courses; I really like the seven-week ones. You learn something, you test over it, you write about it and you research it. It all stays relevant. It all stays fresh. This was day-to-day, planned, stick to the plan. Everything was according to the syllabus.”
Another aspect of the online format Dorris thoroughly enjoyed was the interaction with his instructors and classmates.
“We had group projects that we were doing together,” he said. “We set up a free messenger app, and we talked to each other and emailed back and forth. It was smoother than I would have anticipated. All the instructors got back to me in a timely manner and always addressed whatever questions I had.”
Dorris developed a routine that allowed him to complete all of his schoolwork and still have time to spend with his family.
“I would have to make sure that I had everything tied up before the weekend started,” he said. “A lot of the assignments had to do with discussion questions, and you would post an initial discussion by Wednesday and respond Thursday and Friday.
“It facilitates communication between students. I post this idea, I need to respond, and I need to respond respectfully with such-and-such research article. It was really great, because I got to do a majority of my schoolwork within two or three days.”
He also found inspiration in the camaraderie of several people working toward a common goal.
“It was good to be in the program with students that were like me,” Dorris said. “They were all working nurses trying to advance their education. It was like a weird support group. You had a lot of people that were like you, and you’re like, ‘Where are you? I don’t see you when I go to Target.’ It was really cool to see other people that were trying to achieve the same goals.”
The experience and knowledge of the instructors was also extremely beneficial to Dorris.
“They’re nurses and instructors,” he said. “They’re people that belong to two different worlds. They’re relatable because you’re in the same occupation, but they still had that studious, educational quality to them. You knew that they would make you better just by having a conversation with them. Nothing but good people.”
Join the Pack
Now that he has graduated, Dorris hopes to continue to expand his horizons.
“Since I got my bachelor’s degree, it has opened more doors — especially towards certifications such as a wound care nurse,” he said. “Those certifications require a bachelor’s degree. I wish I would have just started and ended at A-State — that’s how good my experience was.”
The experience has led Dorris to recommend the online RN to BSN program at A-State to several of his colleagues.
“There are two people in my department who are doing this specific program,” he said. “They’re doing well. They like it. They’re not having any issues. It’s designed to where we can keep up in the classroom and make a paycheck. You definitely get to still help people while you’re helping yourself.”
The fact that he could further his education without compromising his career is perhaps the biggest selling point of the program for Dorris.
“When you’re going to A-State and doing your program, you keep up with your classes,” he said. “You don’t feel pressured to try to take time off to try to do more work that you should’ve done. You still get to go to work. You get to be the bedside nurse. You get to do the things that you’re supposed to do.
“With nursing, it’s the cliche that it’s a calling, but a lot of them feel guilty when they miss work. There are sick people there. There is a shortage. It’s real. So, it’s kind of tough to step away from that. Just to say, ‘I want to do me right now. I need to focus on me.’ But, the program allows you to better yourself and still do what you need to do.”
Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program.