The right opportunity can sometimes take years to arrive, but when it does, it pays to answer.
Sharon Ray Tackett has been a registered nurse for 26 years, but she says that now was just the right time to earn her BSN. She's helping others earn theirs too.
Now in a management position at Monroe Surgical Hospital, the former recovery room nurse remembers, "I was in the BSN track 20 some odd years ago … and being a young kid, just thought, 'Well let me just go ahead and get out and make the money.'"
Though Tackett was content with her associate degree for all these years, she knew that earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing through the online RN to BSN program at the University of Louisiana Monroe was something she always wanted to do — she just didn't know when she would be able to do it.
"You know, things are changing," she said. "They're looking for bachelor degrees, especially for management positions, where I've worked for the past seven years. I just thought this would be a good time."
To achieve her lifetime goal, Tackett took advantage of a grant opportunity she found at Louisiana Workforce Commission and, with assistance of others, was able to get a grant approved for Monroe Surgical employees who were interested in going back to school to continue their education.
"Louisiana Workforce Commission is an organization that has an Incumbent Worker Training Program," she said. "I told them I would take on the work for getting this going, and it was approved last September. It started in January, and we had about eight or nine of our employees pursuing a degree through this grant."
Tackett has been able to pay for the majority of her classes and books with this grant and hopes to complete the RN to BSN program in December 2019. She also intends to reapply for this grant to help others achieve their educational goals.
"It does take some time with lots of paperwork," she said. "You have to submit quarterly reports to Louisiana Works to report on the employees' progress of their classes, but it's worth it. Even if I were not taking classes, I would more than welcome the opportunity to do this for the people here to be able to reach their goal."
Tackett finds value not only in the deeper understanding of the nursing field this education provides, but also for the expertise update in a technologically advanced world.
Acquiring New Skills
When you are going through a degree program, it is not always readily apparent why a certain class will be valuable in a future career, but Tackett says that all of the curriculum is relevant.
"Chemistry, microbiology, pathology, those types of science-type classes, I really find they are valuable," she said. "When I was 20 years old, I couldn't believe why I was taking those. In hindsight of 26 years as a nurse, I can see where it mattered, and I can see how it helps. We have nursing students who come through here and I let them know, 'Yes, what you're learning really is helpful, and it's going to matter.'"
Tackett's favorite class so far has been a culture and diversity class she took as an elective, both for its emphasis on learning more about people in different cultural groups and also for the chance to learn and use new technology.
"It is something that's very important in the nursing profession because you are dealing with different types of cultures and different religious beliefs that play into the care of your patients," she said. "I also learned how to do a PowerPoint in that class, which was different from back in the day when we wrote reports."
Tackett has also found value in learning more about database research — a concept she was relatively unfamiliar with before returning to school.
"The Computing for Nurses class [NURS 2014] — I thought it was going to be about nursing math, but it was about research," she said. "I learned that evidence-based research [is done] by using .edu and .org websites versus .com websites."
Mastering these new concepts and current technologies has enriched Tackett's understanding of the nursing world, especially in terms of nursing management. She has her eyes set on pursuing her master's degree in the future to be a better leader at work and a role model to her five children
Planning for the Future
Coming from a family of nurses, Tackett is proud to be raising the bar by earning her BSN. Even if her children and stepchildren — Ashley (23), Blake (19), Caitlyn (13), Brennan (13) and Eden (10) — do not follow in her footsteps, she wants to set an example by showing them what education is worth and how anyone can find time to do it.
She remembers wondering as a young nursing student how the older students in her class were coping. As an experienced nurse now dividing her time between family, her full-time job and the online program, she offers some advice to others considering the online RN to BSN program: "It's really not been that difficult balancing everything … you just have to have it organized and have a schedule."
For Tackett, that means blocking off two to three hours every evening to make sure her schoolwork gets done, but that does not always mean isolation from her family.
"Sometimes, if it's not something I just have to really concentrate on … I'm going to sit in front of the TV with my husband [Kevin] and do my schoolwork there," Tackett said. "At other times I may be back in the bedroom studying if I have to really concentrate."
Stressing the importance of earning the right degree for the job, Tackett hopes that her children and others she comes into contact with see the connection between having a good job and enjoying a good quality of life.
"Something I've told my kids is, once you get your degree, no one can take it away from you," Tackett said. "It's very important to have that behind you to be able to land a job that you like. I hate to see someone who's so unhappy in their job because they can't stand what they are doing."
Earning her BSN is not just a vocational achievement for Tackett, however. It's also a personal achievement 26 years in the making.
"I've always felt like I needed this, and the opportunity just happened to occur, so I took it and ran with it."
Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe online RN to BSN program.
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