5 Ways to Get the Most Out of the RN to BSN Online Option

Joyce Ellis, BSN, RN, CDE graduated from the RN to BSN Online Option at Chamberlain College of Nursing more than 40 years after first becoming a nurse. During her time in the program, she earned top grades, graduated with President’s Honors and was offered a new position. Read more of her story here.

We caught up with Ellis as she shared with us a few tips to getting the most out of the RN to BSN Online Option at Chamberlain:

  1. Be Open to Learning!

Ellis quickly found that the program offered her more than just a diploma at the finish line. She loved learning about new subject areas that ranged from comparative religion to public health nursing.

“I had thought, ‘I will just get this piece of paper and I’m not going to learn anything new! I’ve been a nurse for 40 years,’” she said. “I learned so much. I learned so many things. I found that when I went to meetings at work, I even used language that I had never used before and that helped me stand out.”

She also saw how topics covered in her courses – like statistics – applied directly to her nursing practice.

“Statistics is so vital to reading studies, and I had even worked as a clinical research coordinator, but had never really understood how to read the studies the way that I do now,” she said.

Ellis says her experience at Chamberlain inspired her to continue on even further with her education. Her next goal will be to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in diabetes and sit for the Board-Certified Advanced Diabetes Management certification.

“I’m only doing it for me,” she said, of going for her MSN. “Financially, it will never benefit me, because I won’t have practiced long enough. But it’s not about the money, it’s just about being able to say that I can and I did.”

  1. Use Every Resource – and Ask for Help When You Need It

Ellis wasn’t confident in math – and needed to take two extra algebra courses to get to college algebra. When she encountered difficulty in the second class, she went for tutoring, spoke with the professor on the phone and by email, and even sat in on the same course at a local campus.

“Between tutors and professors and online assistants, everyone was willing to help. They want you to succeed,” she said. “There were always people there, you just had to be assertive enough to ask for help.”

Ellis also took advantage of every resource and tool she could find. In algebra, her professors held weekly teleconferences where you could participate live or watch later, which she did faithfully. She regularly used MyMathLab, a resource that helps you master key concepts, and found outside resources as well – such as those available at yaymath.org, a series of math videos.

  1. Commit to Your Goal 100%

For the 18 months she spent in the program, Ellis joked that her computer was connected to her by an umbilical cord. As she sat in the waiting room during her grandchild’s birth, she studied for her midterm. She and her husband skipped vacations. She brought a briefcase of course materials with her as she cared for her senior parents.

“The program is very doable, even while you’re working, as long as you commit yourself to not being available to do all of the other things that you might have wanted to do,” she said. “Anyone can do it, if you just put your heart and mind into it and commit the time.”

  1. Get Organized – and Get Ahead When You Can

As courses at Chamberlain are eight weeks long, Ellis wanted a way to ensure she always stayed on track.

“I had a real strategic plan, and I followed it to a T,” she said.

Every week, Ellis would write her lesson plans out, including everything that was expected of her in each course. As she completed them, she would put the date down in red so that she knew she had posted adequately.

She always started her readings on Sundays for the next week, and would try to post at least one discussion thread on Sunday in each subject.

“I was always trying to get ahead,” she said. “When I had a week off, like you sometimes did at Christmas or in the summer, I would always have my book to start reading.”

  1. Lean on Your Support System

“The support of family and friends is so vital in nursing school,” Ellis said. “My husband was wonderful. I couldn’t study with a lot of noise and he would leave on Sunday afternoons when he knew I was reading to give me the quiet I needed to focus and absorb the lesson.”

Her family and friends also helped her reduce anxiety about starting back to school after 40 years. They were there for her as she got started, and as she quickly became comfortable in the online learning environment.

“The first time I had to turn a paper in, I literally was shaking,” she said. “I had a girlfriend on the telephone when I hit ‘send.’ The first time I had to take a quiz, I took it at my son’s house only because I was panic-stricken if my computer crashed. He put me in a quiet room, and we had two computers set up.”

When asked her biggest piece of advice for those considering the RN to BSN Online Option, Ellis’ reply was simple: “Just do it. Just do it. It’s so worth it.”

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