Ryan Millsap was carrying on a tradition when he enrolled in the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Eastern Illinois University.
"I was drawn to Eastern because it's an in-state public school," he said. "Plus, my mom, Judy, and my wife, Kelsey, went to school there, so there was a family tie.
"I looked at all of the in-state public schools because I am more tied to that style of school. I circled back around to Eastern and it was at the top of my list. I liked the class load."
Millsap was in the program for 24 months and graduated in December 2017. He is a nursing coordinator at Richland Memorial Hospital in Olney, Illinois. Earning a degree online was the only realistic way he could have completed the bachelor's program.
"It worked very well," he said. "I manage the functions of the hospital at night, so the flexibility of the online format was huge. I tried to stay a day or two ahead. I spent around 7-14 hours per week on the program."
Although Millsap had never taken an online course prior to enrolling at EIU, it didn't take him long to get the hang of it.
"It was a smooth transition," he said. "The first couple of classes were good lead-ins to online learning. They were pretty flexible with people who had never used Blackboard or an online classroom. The professors were also responsive any time I had a question."
Since graduating from the online RN to BSN program, Millsap and his wife started a family. They have a two-year-old daughter, Eliza, and two more children on the way in July 2020.
"My family and friends were all supportive — especially my mom and wife because I was at Eastern," he said. "The degree absolutely helped create opportunities for me. Especially now, it's key for nurses to keep going with their education."
Millsap is originally from Sainte Marie, Illinois, where he developed a love of music and eventually sang in a band called Sidelined that toured the United States. He also played the drums in college; he still plays for fun.
"I went to college for music and a little bit of business and earned an associate degree," he said. "I studied jazz pretty closely. I graduated and knew I needed to do something different. My sister, Krista, is a nurse. She is a couple of years ahead of me in school."
So, Millsap changed his tune and earned an Associate Degree in Nursing from Olney Central College. He completed his second two-year degree program in 2015 and started the search for a bachelor's program.
"My favorite part of nursing is the service to people," he said. "I like building those connections with all walks of life."
NUR 4203: Nursing, Health Care, Policies & Politics, one of the core nursing courses in the online RN to BSN curriculum, was Millsap's favorite.
"It went through certain current legislation and issues pertaining to the world and to nursing, like healthcare systems," he said. "It showed me the overall role of nurses, not just in the hospital but in society and the community and our impact on the world around us."
Millsap also liked the practical real-world experience he gained during the NUR 4604: Professional Seminar course.
"I did mine at the local health department," he said. "We looked at a lot of local data, things that most people probably wouldn't look at, like different rates of people who smoke or get the flu vaccine. I got a good feel for a part of the community I had never really thought about and saw more of the big picture."
Since Millsap graduated more than two years ago, he continues to use the information he learned in the online RN to BSN program on a daily basis.
"Whether it's theory or the hands-on assessment, I use what I learned in the program at my job," he said. "I absolutely got good value out of the program at Eastern."
Call and Response
Millsap completed the journey to a bachelor's degree by walking in the commencement ceremony on campus with his family on hand to cheer him on and welcome him to the den.
"It was a cool experience," he said. "I also liked taking pictures on campus afterward. It felt like it added me to the club. It was also cool to meet the professors in person. I still feel connected to the university."
With a family that will soon be bigger, Millsap is happy to have a bachelor's degree under his belt and a career that he loves. In addition to enjoying a rich home life, he finds time to play music, garden and run. He has worked for Richland Memorial Hospital for five years.
"It's going pretty well," he said. "I would like to get more established in leadership and move into an executive role at some point."
Millsap notes that, whereas associate-level courses mostly teach the hands-on basics of nursing, BSN-level courses are more about the role nurses play in healthcare. Even though he was a little apprehensive about enrolling in an online program, he believes one of the biggest fears for potential students is essential to quell.
"A lot of people are afraid of the writing aspect of the program," he said. "I tell them that the view that it gives you and the broad understanding of nursing is important. It's interesting."
Sounds like a hit.
Learn more about the EIU online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.