What started as a job requirement became a personal mission for Carissa Kincart.
Kincart had been working in labor and delivery at a Magnet hospital that was pushing its nursing staff to go back to school, so she enrolled in the Eastern Illinois University's online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
"I left that facility and ended up at another hospital, and they were not Magnet," said Kincart, who lives in Albion, Illinois. "I went ahead and finished my degree because I was so close to being done with it, and I could see the benefit in finishing."
Kincart, who now works the night shift in the OB emergency department at The Women's Hospital in Newburgh, Indiana, graduated from EIU online program in December 2018.
A long work commute and busy family life parenting three children mean time is in short supply for Kincart.
"It worked well for me to have an online program, because I could do all of my schoolwork at night while everyone was sleeping," she said. "I didn't have to worry about missing any activities or missing sleep or any of that to finish school."
Though she would be an online student, it was important for Kincart to find a reputable school with a campus nearby.
"I started researching RN to BSN programs that were semi-close to where I live and Eastern came up," she said. "They gave a presentation when I was doing my associate degree."
A bit more research moved EIU to the top of Kincart's short list, with the responses she got from faculty members sealing the deal for her.
"I talked to some of the instructors and I really liked them," she said. "They were very friendly and approachable. They were able to answer all my questions. It was an easy process, because they were so approachable."
Kincart did not grow up knowing that nursing was her calling. She became a nurse just nine years ago after leaving a factory job.
"Nursing kind of caught my eye," she said. "I started out in cardiac telemetry, which was a very stressful, demanding job with a high patient load. There's a lot of burnout, and I was feeling that burnout. I had a friend who worked labor and delivery and she said, 'Why don't you come interview here and give this a try?'"
Kincart found her new job to be refreshing and a good fit for her personality. When she took NUR 4508: Public Health Nursing, she came to appreciate the similarities between the issues her small community was facing and the health demands of the nation at large.
"We have the same issues and same problems in my community that they have in the big city," she said. "It was nice to make those connections and see the things that my own community is struggling with."
This was an important connection to make. Kincart's newfound awareness of the problems prevalent in in American society compelled her to reach out to young people in her own community.
"I want to go into the schools and start talking about domestic abuse, because it's one of those things that they see starting earlier and earlier, especially in those high school relationships," she said. "The Public Health Nursing course raised my awareness to needs right here in our own community."
NUR 4203: Nursing, Health Care, Policies & Politics also made an impact on Kincart's view of the nurse's role in the American healthcare system.
"I'm not super political, but seeing the ways that nurses can be involved in the different avenues and the impact that we can make when we all work together was really eye-opening," she said. "We've had several of those hot topic issues that have come down the pike in recent years that nurses have had the opportunity to get involved with."
The Way to Go
Going through an online degree program is often a family effort. Kincart considers herself lucky to have had the support of her husband, Anthony, during her time at EIU.
"He was really, really fantastic and picked up the extra slack with the kids," she said. "My kids can see how important it is to follow through with your dreams and to achieve the things that you want to get done from the example that I'm setting for them."
Kincart's children Libby (17), Conner (13) and Josiah (8) are all proud of their mother, and college-bound Libby is following her mother's lead.
"After seeing all the hard work that I've put in, Libby realizes the importance of choosing something that you're passionate about and just going after it," she said.
Along with her family, Kincart's professors and classmates helped her make it through the program. These are not passing acquaintances. Working together in an intensive program creates long-term bonds.
"All the instructors are great," she said. "I still keep in touch with them now. I also made friends with people I was in class with and many of us still keep in touch."
Kincart's former employer may have given her the push to get started on her BSN, but she believes that anyone interested in becoming a better nurse should not wait to be called.
"Don't think about it, just do it," she said. "I spent a lot of time thinking about going back, and I could've gone back and been done way sooner. You have to really want to go back because it is a lot of work, but it's worth it in the end."
Learn more about the EIU online RN to BSN program.
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