How I would have changed my nursing education

Community College might make more sense.

I took a very convoluted route to obtain a Nursing Bachelor’s degree. It was mostly driven by money and scheduling classes around my work schedule.  At one point I was enrolled at 3 different universities to make it all work.  My family impressed a crazy notion that if you graduated with debt you failed. I did everything I could to avoid debt and worked countless hours to pay for everything.

  • I had to feel the pain of out of state tuition to realize what a huge mistake it was. I went to the University of Iowa and paid about $10,000 in the first semester for food, housing, and tuition. I left my car in Omaha because the cost to park was ridiculous and it was across campus, so I had to take a bus to get to it.  I completely blew through all of my high school savings. I went back to Omaha because I hated being trapped in Iowa City without a car or any money
  • I wised up and spent the Spring semester at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  It was really cheap compared to the University of Iowa.  Most students (like me) lived at home and worked full time.  I majored in pre-nursing and minored in Spanish. It took me 5 years.
  • I took a few classes at Creighton University through their free tuition for employees program and a few classes at Metro Community College because I needed more flexible times.
  • After I received my Bachelor’s in Nursing Science (BSN) I worked for 4 years as an RN then started my Master’s in Nursing program with a focus on Pediatrics.  My plan was to go very slowly through the program but after the first year I wanted to get done, so I picked up a lot more hours.
  • I ended up working nights and weekends as a nurse practitioner and out of boredom, I signed up to get my doctorate.  I paid very little for this doctorate since most of the classes were covered under our tuition assistance program.

My twenty year old brain was always calculating the cost of school but I never stopped to think how much I was loosing by not becoming a nurse quicker.  If I had become an RN with an associates degree, I would have been making $14/hour or $26,208 annually 3 years sooner and then built up my education resume while being paid a full-time RN wage.  I was working as a certified nursing assistant making $10/hour or $18,720 annually.  Since I had clinicals that were not flexible during that time, I was unable to be an official full-time employee, so I did not receive any tuition reimbursement during that time. Granted, it’s only $2,000 a year (it hasn’t changed in the last 16 years I’ve been employed) but it’s a tax-free reimbursement.)

So the take home message is:

  1. Get as many college credits as possible while in high school.
  2. Get an associates nursing degree (ASN)from a community college for cheap in 2 years (less if you come with credits from high school.)
  3. Work with the education department to see if your hospital has any affiliate colleges or tuition reimbursement and get your bachelor’s nursing science (BSN). This degree is valuable if you want to go into management at some point in your career.
  4. If you want to become a nurse practitioner, you’ve already had plenty of experience on the floor with your ASN. Start as soon as you obtain your bachelor’s OR you can find a RN to NP program.  RN to NP programs are typically online and more expensive.

Enjoy making $25 an hour or $46,800 annually (in Nebraska) after only 2 years of college in a career that is one of the most trusted in American. You could make more with night, weekend, and holiday differential. There is also ALWAYS opportunity for over time.

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