It’s easy to understand why Mark Hall was a bit skeptical when he started course NURS 354: Transition to Professional Nursing in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s RN to BSN online program.
“I went into it going, ‘Transition to Professional Nursing? I’ve been a nurse for 17 years. I think I’ve got this,'” he said.
To his surprise, Hall did gain some valuable knowledge and insight from the professional nursing course. He said the class gave him new perspectives on issues relevant to practicing nurses and the profession, such as improving healthcare through evidence-based research and practice and influencing government policy on healthcare.
“We, as nurses, are in an ideal position to help with these things because we are the face of healthcare to patients,” he said. “We also have greater knowledge of what will and what will not work as far as government healthcare policy. We live it daily. These were some eye-opening things that, prior to this class, I had not considered. I hope to take a more active role in these areas now. When I obtain my BSN, it will put me in a better strategic position to do so.
“The experience of that class was very good. I really enjoyed it,” he said.
Building and Growing as a Nurse
Although Hall has a wealth of professional experience, he’s still new to the RN to BSN program. Hall is on pace to graduate in Spring 2018.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Hall said. “I always felt like it would be something that would eventually be a requirement for many employers. It’s not to that point yet, but since I started working as a nurse in 2000, I’ve seen a trend that’s slowly and steadily moving in that direction.”
Hall, a registered nurse in pediatrics at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, hopes to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). He was originally a pre-med major, but his frustration with organic chemistry helped convince him to give nursing school a shot.
"That will give me a clinical advantage, and then I’ll be able to go to med school,” he said. “Then, I met my wife [Jackie], got engaged and got married after I graduated. Med school was a fleeting thought. I don’t think I would want to do that now. Nursing is unique — it’s a field of science where you can serve people, much like medicine. And I like helping others.”
Come Parenthood or High Water
Hall had considered enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program for several years, but he put those plans on hold for fatherhood. He has three children — Landon (20), Kaitlyn (15) and Christian (13).
“There was a point where I was at baseball games many days of the week, and there were a lot of things going on throughout the house like feeding kids and changing diapers,” he said. “I just didn’t know if school would fit into the schedule. Now that my kids are older, I can tell them, ‘Hey, guys, I have to work on school.’ And they understand that at this point in their lives.”
Once he enrolled at UL Lafayette, Hall had to wait a bit longer to start the program after heavy flooding ravaged the Baton Rouge area in August 2016. Although Hall was fortunate to have minimal water damage to his home, his internet service was knocked out by the flooding. His in-laws weren’t as lucky — they lost everything they owned in the flood.
“I was enrolled in the online program and the flood was just a few days prior to the start of the semester,” he said. “I made a decision to put my extra time into helping restore some kind of order to my family's life. I had already waited over 16 years to start back in school, a few more weeks was not going to hurt.”
Once he was finally able to return to school, he found the program to be worth the wait.
“I was looking for something that would work for my schedule, something that would be convenient and a reasonable price — a value,” he said. “I don’t know if they had any fully online programs when I started looking. I had looked at some other institutions in the state of Louisiana that were closer than Lafayette, but at the time, it just wasn’t a good fit. I came back to UL and started comparing things. It just seemed like everything worked out, and it had everything I needed.”
Hall said online learning has worked perfectly with his schedule.
“It’s a very convenient format,” he said. “It’s busier than I thought it would be. When I’m not at work, I’m pretty much working on school. When I was younger, I was definitely not a self-starter, probably like many college students, but I have matured since then. After my first couple of classes, I was really surprised at the amount of learning that had taken place through the course of the classes.”
Second Time Around
Hall, whose oldest son is a business major at Southeastern Louisiana University and will graduate a few months ahead of him, said it was important for him to show his kids the value of higher education.
“I told him, ‘You know, son, if I could do it again, my GPA would have been much better,” Hall said. “If I could go back to then and know what I know now, I never would have made a B in college. I would have done my very best.’
“That’s kind of an impetus for me now — setting an example. For me to get into anesthetist school … it’s a really competitive program. My grades from my previous degree are not bad, but they’re not stellar. This is my opportunity to not only get the next step that’s needed, but to also do an outstanding job so I can prove I’m a worthy candidate for the program.”
Hall said he talked to several of his coworkers who were graduates of the RN to BSN online program at UL Lafayette before he enrolled. Now, he’s already recommending the program to other colleagues interested in earning a bachelor’s degree.
“I think that’s a great idea,” he said. “I told them, ‘It really works with your schedule. It’s convenient. It’s at a price point that’s very competitive for any other place that I’ve looked at.’ I told them I felt like I’ve learned a lot from the program in the short time that I’ve been there. I’m looking forward to some of the other classes coming up.”
Around the Horn
Although he did not play any sports growing up in Sun, Louisiana, Hall is an avid cyclist and baseball fan. His son, Landon, played baseball throughout his high school career.
“I was privileged to be able to see my son Landon compete in the state championship playoff game during his senior year of high school,” Hall said. “I think he could have played at the collegiate level if he would have wanted to.”
Hall is also a transport team nurse, which means he helps move extremely sick children to and from the hospital where he works, as well as to specialists across the country in places like Washington, D.C., and Boston. On one of his work trips to Boston, he was even able to swing by Fenway and take a picture (at right) of the well-known stadium before getting back to work.
Hall said he is looking forward to continuing to work toward his degree while still having spare time to spend with his wife and kids and also for baseball.
“When I graduated from high school, there were no online classes,” Hall said. “When I started college, there was hardly an internet. By the time I finished college, the internet was kind of breaking out. Now, you just say, ‘Oh, Google that.’ That wasn’t a thing then, so I was not sure if an online curriculum was going to work for me. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to learn anything from it, but it’s been great.”
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.
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