Walter Matheny II has the politeness and charm of a true Southern gentleman. It’s all “yes, ma’am” or “no, sir” from this native Louisianian. This courtesy extends to his professors and new alma mater, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Walter completed his RN to BSN degree online from UL Lafayette in February, and he was so pleased with his experience and professors that he went above and beyond the typical course review process that concludes each class.
“I wanted to send a personal message above the reviews because teachers get reviews at the end of every class. You click a button here, you click a button there, but I just felt compelled to tell the teachers that they did a great job and that I felt that they were very invested in my learning,” he says.
Walter began his RN education at a university in north Louisiana right out of high school, but his life took some unexpected turns that required him to take some time away from school. He worked in a Louisiana oilfield for about a year before returning to that university. And even though he worked hard and retook many classes in which he maintained a GPA of 3.5, the school considered his full academic history and denied his entry into the necessary clinicals for the RN program.
During this time, Walter lost both of his parents. Having seen his father’s declining health, he became even more dedicated to becoming a nurse. So when the school suggested that maybe he wasn’t supposed to be a nurse and to “think about another career path,” he enrolled in a technical college where he finished at the top of his class to become an LPN.
Walter worked for a year as an LPN before giving that university another shot. He enrolled in their bridge program to become an RN and was successful in completing the program. He had always planned on completing his BSN degree, but at that time in his life, working was a higher priority.
“I needed the money more than the education at that point,” he explains. “So once I had my RN license and a job lined out, I said, ‘Well, I’m going to work for a year or two then go back.’ Seven years later, you know, life happens. That’s the way it works sometimes.”
Back for a BSN
After the seven-year hiatus, Walter was ready to go to school to complete the BSN degree. He compared the programs from his alma mater and the UL Lafayette before making a decision. He works at the University Health of Shreveport hospital, and a few of his trusted colleagues there suggested he look into UL Lafayette’s online option.
“I compared the two programs, and UL ended up being about $4,000 cheaper and a lot quicker graduation time for the same degree,” he says.
In addition to the cost and completion time, Walter liked that the UL Lafayette program course work was 100 percent online. He says that the convenience of an online RN to BSN program was a driving factor in his decision.
“Because I worked nights, I did not have the option for classroom. So the convenience of online and being able to work at your own pace is why I wanted an online program,” he explains.
Despite seeking out an online RN to BSN program, Walter had some early apprehension about an online program, but weekly online videos and discussions quickly alleviated his concerns.
“Every week we have a video, so it seems like you have a class time. Every class has some kind of discussion forum that you do, but in the first part of the week, they explain those things to you. Those things really helped me out a lot,” he says. “The teachers feel more in touch, they feel closer to you because they’re always communicating with you.”
Difference between ADN and BSN
Walter also says that the faculty were truly invested in his education and his future as a nurse.
“I felt that they really wanted me to learn what I needed to learn as just part of my professional career because there is definitely a transition from when you are an ADN-trained nurse to a BSN-educated nurse, there’s definitely a difference between the two, and when you’re an RN you can’t really see it as much unless you go through this process,” he says.
Walter further explains the difference between the focus and direction of working as a BSN nurse as opposed to an ADN nurse. He says that in the ADN program, the focus was more task-oriented and included more direct involvement with patient care. He explains that the RN to BSN program focuses more on evidence-based practice and learning how to lead and manage.
“The mindset was more on management and policies and how evidence-based practice comes into directing your patient care in general,” he says. “They put you in that mindset so you can understand why we do the things that we do, how to make a change if a change is needed, and what evidence you’re going to need to present to actually make that change. As a BSN-prepared nurse, you focus on research and finding out the reasons why.”
Not surprisingly, Walter says his favorite course was NURS 406, which is evidence-based practice in nursing.
He explains, “The NURS 406 course taught you how to decipher what evidence was relevant to your research and how to become an authority in a field of study.”
Even though Walter has completed requirements for his BSN degree, he doesn’t plan to stop learning. One of the reasons why he did go back for his bachelor’s degree was because he ultimately wants to go even further by earning a master’s degree. His goal is to become a nurse practitioner, and earning his BSN degree through UL Lafayette’s RN to BSN program showed him the value of continuing his education.
“With UL Lafayette, they don’t just say this will be for management job, this will help you to understand the next step in your career path. It opens your eyes and broadens your horizons. You look at that master’s degree as a next step in the evolution of yourself as a professional and as a nurse to provide a larger impact on your patients, and that’s why you become a nurse anyway,” he says.
He says that he is more driven to earn his master’s degree in nursing now. He sees it as an appropriate next step in his career. “And I feel that UL Lafayette prepared me to do that as well with the research that we had to do and understanding the research that we analyzed,” he explains.
Walter plans to enroll in an MSN degree program in January 2017, which UL Lafayette offers online and has been for over two decades.
All online RN to BSN students are invited to participate in the graduation ceremony closest to their graduation date. For Walter, that would be in May. When he speaks about his graduation plans, Walter’s sense of pride and anticipation is evident — not just because of graduation itself, but for the reason why he won’t be attending: “I will not be able to attend. I’m going to have a little baby girl here in May. So we have plans.”
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.
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