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Short-term Sacrifice Leads to Long-term Benefits: A baccalaureate degree from UT Austin pays dividends

Posted: Aug. 2, 2017

David Williams (BSN ’17)

You’ve probably seen the ads: “Our RN to BSN program — accelerated, affordable, accredited.” But not what hospital recruiters want, apparently.

David Williams (BSN ’17) can attest to that. His journey to The University of Texas at Austin may not have been as clear cut as many undergraduate nursing hopefuls, but he thanks his lucky stars that his diploma is emblazoned with “The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing” because, as he’s quick to point out, “It set me up for success.”

A few years ago, David was working in north Houston at an insurance company when he suddenly found himself displaced when the company decided to move out of state.

“They offered me an opportunity to go with them, but after doing some soul searching, I decided to stay put and go for a degree in nursing instead,” he said. “I received an all-paid scholarship for an associate’s degree, which I completed in May 2016.”

But afterwards as he made the rounds in the world-renowned Texas Medical Center, it was clear hospitals were looking for nurses with a four-year degree. Since his heart was set on working at CHI St. Luke’s Health, it was time for more soul searching, and this time it led him to Austin.

Several of his friends who also had ADNs and were wanting to get a bachelor’s were choosing schools offering online degrees because personal obligations made attending class in person difficult. David understood their reasons for this choice but is glad he went the face-to-face route.

“I kept hearing that UT Austin had the best nursing program in Texas — everyone knows its reputation — and even though UT was my first choice, I applied to other schools with similar onsite programs around the state, just in case,” David said.

Fortunately, he was accepted at UT and started making a weekly commute from Houston to Austin, where he attended classes three days a week. The classes were challenging, to say the least. Transition to Professional Nursing, a university-level writing flag course taught by Dr. Lorraine C. Haertel, was one of the first courses in the program’s curriculum. In addition to the course content, Dr. Haertel encouraged and helped the students to be the best they could be in learning to write professionally and prepared them for writing for publication in their careers.

“Dr. Haertel gave us the building blocks we were going to need to succeed,” he said. “Nevertheless, I had to ask myself: What do I do to get better, to improve? It all came together by the end of the semester, and we congratulated ourselves saying, ‘We can write now!’”

Another course, Contemporary Nursing taught by Dr. Bobbie Sterling, helped David understand the heart of nursing, and a 135-hour clinical practicum in nursing leadership expanded on and consolidated his nursing skills.

“The UT Austin School of Nursing prepared me very well,” he said. “The classes built on my clinical skills and gave me a better understanding of policy and procedure, public health, leadership and critical thinking; all the things a nurse needs to be successful. You just don’t get that in online programs.”

After graduation, David received two job offers in his preferred area of cardiovascular ICU, one of which was his dream job at CHI St. Luke’s. During his interviews, David heard repeatedly how important a face-to-face program is to the recruiters, who are looking to hire the best.

“Compared to online students with the same credentials, they prefer those graduating from rigorous face-to-face programs, such as at UT Austin,” he said.

Statistics bear that out. According to Carol Riazzi, assistant director of clinical and career services, close to 85 percent of the School of Nursing’s BSN graduates are hired by their first-choice employer. “Over the years, we’ve found that our BSN students aren’t just getting a job, they’re getting the job they want,” she added.

David is now considering furthering his education and may one day return to school for a master’s degree. He knows that his UT Austin School of Nursing degree has not only prepared him to succeed in graduate school, but will open the door to any university he chooses to attend.

“This is an awesome school! I feel very confident,” he said. “Face-to-face instruction gave me what I needed to succeed and will help others do the same. Sometimes students have to make a short-term sacrifice to reach their long-term goals.”


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