Because Stacey Tebbe lives in rural Teutopolis, Illinois, she never had an opportunity to return to college until online degree programs came along.
"I had always wanted to get a bachelor's degree," she said. "We didn't have any programs in my area, so I would have had to drive, travel or move. I married my high school sweetheart, Eric, the weekend after my 21st birthday. Moving wasn't an option."
So, Tebbe, a registered nurse, was thrilled to enroll in the RN to BSN online program at Eastern Illinois University. But there was still one problem.
"Our internet was so inconsistent with the only provider we had here," Tebbe said. "I had to go sit in my sister's driveway with my laptop and use her internet to listen to a lecture. I said to my husband, 'We have to do something. I have to have internet.'"
The solution? The family purchased an internet tower from Duluth, Minnesota, and erected it near their house to have more reliable service. Tebbe now had the full power of the internet at her fingertips – in her own home. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
"Now, my kids say, 'Mom, they are running fiber optics that are going to be coming down our road. Do you think we can have fiber optics now?' I said, 'I don't know. We spent a lot of money on this tower,'" she said.
While enrolled in the online RN to BSN program, Tebbe maintained a part-time job as an RN in the procedure suites interventional pain clinic at St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham, where she has worked for nearly 21 years. She and her husband have two children, Kaitlyn (13) and Hayden (11).
"The program was super manageable," she said. "There were times when I would get home from ball games, get the kids to bed and it would be 10 o'clock at night. I would sit down and listen to a lecture. I had that flexibility. I spent at least 20 hours a week on the program."
Tebbe was sure that she wanted to pursue a nursing career after enrolling in a health occupations program in high school.
"I was a certified nursing assistant my senior year at a nursing home," she said. "I kept going. I love nursing. I was born to be a nurse."
After high school, Tebbe graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing from Lakeland Community College in 2004. That's where she met Dr. Renee Kidd-Marshall, who is now director of the RN to BSN program at EIU.
"I was already familiar with her as a professor," she said. "Plus, Eastern Illinois is the closest university to my location. When I found out it had an online program, I said, 'I can do that.'"
Although Tebbe enjoyed all of the courses in the online RN to BSN curriculum, she especially liked the public health rotation requirement.
"I did mine through our local county health department," she said. "That was cool because that's when the Ebola virus epidemic was happening. I got to sit in on a state-level mock Ebola outbreak. I learned so much. It was neat to know what would happen on a state level if something like that occurred."
The bachelor's degree program also changed Tebbe's perspective on the big picture of her nursing practice.
"I never realized how important being involved in your local and state levels of nursing is before I was in the program," she said. "It impacts what we get to do as professionals. I had never belonged to any associations, but I do now because it impacts me a lot — especially as a provider."
Plenty of Bandwidth
Tebbe completed her journey to a bachelor's degree when she walked in the commencement ceremony at EIU in May 2016.
"Damn right I did," she said. "If you are going to go through the work, you need to get the gratification of getting that degree and walking across the stage. I worked my tail off."
Ten months later, Tebbe got back to work. She enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner program at Chamberlain University and graduated in August 2019.
"It was a great learning experience for our children," she said. "I think they realize how important it is to get your education early. It's a little stressful — especially when you have ball games, events and birthday parties and have to plan everything around your assignments."
Tebbe believes the online RN to BSN program at EIU is doable for anybody willing to put in the effort to make it worth their while.
"You need to have a good grasp on time management," she said. "Anything is possible if you make the time for it, but you have to set aside a certain amount of time for the program. Otherwise, you aren't going to get what you need out of the program to practice proficiently."
Now that Tebbe is finished with school, she enjoys having plenty of time to watch her children grow up while working as a nurse. Most of all, she is right where she wants to be — in Teutopolis, with her internet tower high in the sky.
"My ultimate goal is to stay in my community," she said. "We have a lot of needs and a lot of underserved patients in our area. I plan on staying local. My kids tell me, 'You're never going back to school again, Mom.'"
Time to log off.
Learn more about the EIU online RN to BSN program.
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