Kristen Tyree is an oncology stem cell nurse at Medical City in Arlington, Texas, and even at the age of 22, she has seen a lot of people at their best and worst.
"I work with people who are really, really sick," she said. "[As nurses], we have to be careful about what we do because they're a huge infection risk."
Tyree knew she needed to earn a more solid foundation in the practice of nursing, which she could get in the RN to BSN online degree program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her goal is to provide the highest level of care for her patients.
"The program teaches us how to be leaders in our field, which is what we should all want to do," she said. "The leadership classes, an evidence-based practice class, and emergency management classes — so fundamental and so important — build upon the knowledge we already have."
Tyree began taking classes in October of 2018, and she is zipping through the program thanks to prerequisites she completed earlier.
"When they sent me my degree plan originally, I saw that I could have taken until 2020," she said. "They wanted to make sure I wasn't stressed because they knew I was working full time, but I wanted to be done sooner because of my academic goals."
Tyree, who plans to graduate in December, hopes to move up the educational ladder and teach the nurses of the future.
"The BSN is a stepping stone to getting where I want to be academically," she said. "I eventually want to earn my Ph.D. and teach nursing because I've had such great instructors. I would love to work at UL to do the online program because I know how beneficial it is."
For now, however, Tyree is putting her education to work, and getting real-life experience. She expects the resulting insight will help her become an exceptional teacher.
Getting the Education
Online learning suits Tyree well. She feels she is gaining the education she needs to be the best nurse she can be from a supportive and understanding faculty.
"One class I liked for my specialty, working with cancer patients, was [NURS 408 Trends in Genetics and Genomics with Dr. Helen Fox-McCloy]," she said. "That was a class that I definitely did not think I was going to like originally because I've taken one before for a prereq for nursing school. But she made it so fun and so interesting by tailoring her notes to some of our specialties."
Even if a course did not appear to have an immediate practical application to her specialty, Tyree recognized the need to think about healthcare workers as a community with shared responsibility.
"In my emergency management class [NURS 344: Nursing in a Disaster for RN to BSN], they taught us about what to do in emergencies and how to do emergency healthcare," she said. "That was one of the most interesting classes because nurses don't usually think about the fact that if a huge wide scale emergency happened, we would all be called to help, regardless of our specialty."
Tyree found the real humanity behind the online programs in professors who were there to support her needs as a person.
"I told my teachers when I got really sick earlier this year," she said. "I was afraid that if I turned in things late that they would take points off, but they understood that I was sick and asked that I turn it in when I could."
Based on her experience, Tyree predicts that anyone who wishes to pursue their academic goals will be met with the same enthusiasm they put into it.
"These people care about you, and it will help your practice," she said.
Putting the Education to Work
"Nursing school teaches you the skills and the critical thinking, but the BSN goes further to teach you how to be a leader and use those skills to improve yourself and your patient care," Tyree said.
One class, in particular, showed her just how to do that.
"NURS 406: Evidence-Based Practice for RN to BSN taught me how to find research and information that was good for my practice," she said. "It was the best way I could find information to keep my patients safe."
She also appreciates having a more solid foundation in evidence-based practices, given the proliferation of new treatment options.
"We get all of these new research trials, new chemotherapies, and new medicines," said Tyree, who is passionate about advancements in stem cell research and their applicability to her job as an oncology stem cell nurse.
Tyree is using her knowledge of evidence-based practices to care not only for her patients' bodies, but also for their minds. Her research on infection control led her to discover that there's more to it than handwashing, with coping skills vital to healing and recovery.
"Sometimes these people need spiritual help and emotional help too."
As Tyree explains, skilled nurses make the connection between treating the body and putting the patient's mind at ease.
"The research I did on group therapies and support groups showed me that bonding, having similar people around and feeling like they are not alone is incredibly important to treatment of cancer patients," she said.
"Having somebody who sits there and says, 'I see you, I hear you, I actually know what you're going through' is just as important as washing your hands."
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.
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