Meet Lori Kenyon. She loves her job as an ER nurse at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. She has a son and daughter and travels around the world. On top of that, she earned her bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) in 11 months.
Her life is fast paced. And that’s why she chose the only program that would allow her to finish a bachelor’s degree at pace that matched her life —the University of Wisconsin Flexible Option RN to BSN online program through the UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing. She not only finished her degree in less than a year, but in May, she also became the first graduate of the much-watched competency-based BSN online program.
Proud to work at UW Health
Lori didn’t decide to go into nursing until one of her children suffered a head injury. After the accident, Lori went to Southwest Tech in Fennimore for a two-year nursing degree.
“The ER is different than other departments. My work days are never the same.”
The associate degree program taught her the basics of being a nurse—body systems, diseases, and medication. “It was the right choice for me then, because I’m the type of person who wants to jump in and figure things out, versus stand back and wait.”
Since she earned her associate degree, she has worked in several nursing positions, but the emergency unit at UW Health is her favorite. “The ER is different than other departments,” she says. “My work days are never the same, and the patients are very scared when they come in. If my team can make that awful time a little better, we not only make their body better, but their mind as well.”
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Wanting to become a better nurse
“Earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing never appealed to me before,” Lori says, “because with work and family, I was too busy.”
She didn’t want to earn additional credentials to move to a different unit or be a department manager, which is why many RNs get a nursing bachelor’s degree. Lori wanted a BSN to become an even better nurse.
“I love learning. It’s fun! If someone paid me to go to college for the rest of my life, I would do it.” Plus, her two kids had moved out and gone to college, and she decided it was the right time.
When looking at different BSN degree options, she knew a traditional program would never work. “My work hours fluctuated between days and nights. I needed something that was flexible enough to work with my life.”
“My work hours fluctuated between days and nights. I needed something that was flexible enough to work with my life.”
Lori is the kind of self-directed learner that is perfect for competency-based RN to BSN online education. “I’m motivated, and I like doing things on my own. That’s how I knew the UW Flexible Option online RN to BSN program would work for me.”
Earning an RN to BSN online degree faster
She enrolled in the BSN online program in June 2014 and quickly found out that competency-based education is very different than traditional on-campus or online programs.
In Flexible Option, students complete competency sets and progress through the learning materials and assessments as quickly or slowly as they wish. And students don’t have to wait for the next semester to start classes—Flex students can sign up for three-month “All-You-Can-Learn” subscription periods, in which they can take as many competencies as they can.
Competency-based nursing programs allow some people to save time and money on their degrees. Lori is one such person. “I took 36 credits last year and worked full time. If I was not driven and disciplined, it would have been very challenging to finish as quickly as I did.”
Flexibility and personalized support suited for adult learners
Dedication is key to staying on track in a Flexible Option program. Lori carried a textbook with her everywhere she went. “Every minute that I wasn’t sleeping or working, I did homework.”
Hands down, the biggest benefit of online learning for Lori was that she didn’t have to be physically in class at a certain time. When not working, she travels with her partner for his wine business. The flexibility of competency-based learning allowed her to continue progressing through the BSN program on trips. She spent many days doing homework while sitting in the airport, “and I wrote papers in Puerto Rico, Mexico, California, Colorado, and a couple in Florida.”
“In the RN to BSN online program, I learned something useful from every one of my courses.”
In traditional programs, advisers offer guidance to students throughout their academic career, but students may only speak to them once or twice a semester. Flexible Option provides a unique, personalized support model: each student is paired with an Academic Success Coach (ASC). These ASCs do more than traditional advisers, such as create a learning plan, email student questions to instructors, and make sure tuition is paid on time.
An ASC is the go-to person for any question or concern a Flex student might have, paying special attention to the needs of adult learners, especially those who are trying to juggle school and other responsibilities. Lori’s ASC, Kristin Hoffman, advised her on staying organized and deciding which courses to take. Normally, Kristin checked in every couple weeks to see how she was progressing. “She was terrific,” Lori says.
Lori also has an extremely supportive family, who understood that when she was studying or sleeping after a night shift, she needed silence in the house.
A respected BSN online degree gives her options
“In the RN to BSN online program, I learned something useful from every one of my courses,” Lori says.
Some students in Flexible Option are able to use knowledge acquired on the job or through other experiences to help them pass competency set assessments, such as exams, papers, or other projects, more quickly. If they learned and remember the material, they don’t need to spend time on it—they simply need to prove what they know. Lori always read the textbook or studied other learning materials before taking assessments, but she was able to apply some of her knowledge and experience in writing papers.
“It’s a great program, and I recommended it to one of my coworkers—a nurse I work with in the ER—and now, he is in the program.”
A BSN degree gives Lori greater mobility and the chance to work in different units in the hospital. “If you are motivated and want to finish your bachelor’s degree and do something different, then this program is perfect for you.”
Lori says, “I feel very lucky that it was an option for someone like me, who has neither the desire nor the time to go back to the classroom. It’s a great program, and I recommended it to one of my coworkers—a nurse I work with in the ER—and now, he is in the program.”
The pinning ceremony and beyond
In May, Lori went to the nursing graduation ceremony in Milwaukee, which included pinning, a symbolic welcoming of graduating nurses into the profession. As UW-Milwaukee BSN faculty presented her with a small, golden pin, she was able to meet and shake hands with some of the outstanding instructors who designed her courses. “The nursing instructors clearly cared about how well I was doing in the program. It was really nice to meet them in person.”
When asked about her ultimate career aspirations, Lori hesitates. “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” she laughs. “I’d be happy if I retired from the job I have now.”
She is thinking about continuing her education further, through an online master’s degree program. “I’d like to teach someday. A bachelor’s and master’s is a great foundation for that.”
To find out more about the UW Flexible Option RN to BSN online program and whether this competency-based education option is a good fit for you, call a friendly enrollment adviser today at 1-877-895-3276 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More UW Flexible Option Student Stories
Why One Busy Nurse Chose the UW Flexible Option’s RN to BSN Program
How One Ambitious Student Saved $7,500 and Nine Months in His Very First UW Flexible Option Subscription Period
Competency-Based Degrees a Smart, Affordable Option for Busy Professionals Like Craig Kilgo