It's been just over a year since Dasia Payton received her RN license, and she is already nearing the halfway mark in the RN to BSN online degree program from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
"I wanted to grow as an individual and as a nurse," said Payton, an observation unit RN at University Medical Center in New Orleans. "I wanted to get a better view of all the avenues that nursing has to offer, which I didn't receive through my ADN [Associate Degree in Nursing] program."
When it came to picking the right school for her BSN, Payton knew she needed an option that would work well with her schedule.
"It came down to UL Lafayette and one other school," she said. "I liked the flexibility that UL offered versus the other school. At the other, I would probably have to go to class once a month, and I didn't want to have to do that.
"The curriculum was compatible with the remaining classes I have to take to obtain my degree. The application process was easy and all the staff was very welcoming and provided me with good information."
It was more than flexibility that drew Payton in, however. She also found the staff friendly and knowledgeable about the program and how it could help her achieve her career goals.
"I love the community that UL has," she said. "The staff at UL were very welcoming. … The transition was very smooth from applying to enrolling in my classes."
After consulting with friends from her ADN program about UL Lafayette, Payton knew she found the right place to accelerate her career.
"I had all the foundations I needed already, so I wanted something that was fast-paced and online," she said.
As a new nurse, Payton is keeping up with her schoolwork by spending about two hours per day on her studies, gaining a deeper understanding of her professional practice with each passing day.
In the observation unit, Payton spends her days caring for patients with acute problems.
"We see patients with acute chest pains, kidney injuries, cellulitis, post-op patients who aren't stable enough to go home," she said. "I chose this unit because I wanted to get a variety of diagnoses as a new grad. I love the idea of going into work each day not knowing what my assignment will entail."
Payton just celebrated her one-year anniversary as a nurse, and says she is thankful for all the experiences she has had so far.
"It's a unit where we see people who aren't quite sick enough to be admitted to our inpatient floor, but they aren't well enough to be sent home," she said. "We observe them overnight and monitor their lab work and clinical progression."
Having a fast-paced job requiring a lot of individual decisions has given Payton the perfect opportunity to apply what she is learning in the RN to BSN program to her blossoming career.
Of the courses she has taken so far, she has particularly enjoyed NURS 327: Community Health Nursing with Diverse Populations. She credits NURS 421: Nursing Leadership and Management for RN to BSNs with giving her not only a broader view of leadership but also practical skills.
"I like the information that it entails about the different leadership roles. When I go to work, I try to use the knowledge that I've gained through the course thus far and apply it to practice."
Payton is also gaining the time management skills so important for nurses by balancing a hectic work schedule and her studies.
"Thus far I've been trying to manage my time better," she said. "I make a list at the beginning of the shift, and when a shift gets hard, I just go off the list to make my time more valuable by prioritizing important tasks over small tasks."
By learning to provide care efficiently, Payton is better able to do what she loves while reducing the stress that can come with nursing.
Love Given and Returned
Payton felt called to take care of people early on.
"I knew that I wanted to be in healthcare since I was a little girl," she said. "While in high school, I was bestowed with multiple opportunities to participate in summer science programs at LSU Interim Hospital in partnership with LSU School of Medicine."
Payton fell in love with the whole profession during a one-week nursing camp.
"I like everything from meeting the basic physiological needs of patients to the more advanced tasks of using the nursing process to provide the best quality care to patients."
While she has found nursing to be overwhelming at times, she is learning skills at UL Lafayette that are helping her lifelong dream become a reality.
"It's not easy working in healthcare, but I really enjoy the rewards that I receive from it," she said.
Payton is starting to feel the love she puts into her career shine back at her from her patients.
"I like getting to know my patients once they come in," she said. "When they're discharged, I love to see how they have clinically progressed and how their attitudes have improved. I love rendering services to people. I love to help my community. It gives me so much joy and pleasure.
"I'm glad I chose to work in such a heart-felt, people-oriented profession. I love helping people in their strongest and happiest times in life as well as their most vulnerable and low moments in life. It gives me great pleasure to care for others and get appreciation for what I do in return without looking for it. It's the simple 'thank yous' that keep me going."
Payton is confident she can reach her goals with the support and encouragement she is receiving from her family and her fiancé, Kentrell Thornton. She quotes him as saying things like, "Don't you have a paper due this week? You should be writing your paper."
"My immediate family, they were all so excited as well," said Payton. "The sky is the limit — they want the best for me. And they're here to help me through it all."
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.
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