There isn't much that Elizabeth Carlisle loves more than being a nurse and living in a small town, but that has never stopped her from thinking big.
"I love the small-town atmosphere," she said. "The patients don't have access to specialists or even quality care sometimes. Being in a rural area gives you the opportunity to see such a variety of issues. You're the one stop for everything."
Sixteen years after Carlisle earned an associate degree, she completed the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the University of Louisiana Monroe in July 2020.
"My kids are older now," she said. "I felt like I had more time to dedicate to my practice than I did before. I also came to a point where I was ready to broaden my horizons a little bit. I felt like the low man on the totem pole."
Carlisle works full time as a floor nurse at Specialty Rehab Hospital in Coushatta, Louisiana. She and her husband, Marshall, have two children, Georgia (14) and Tanner (12). The online format helped her strike the right balance and still enjoy the quiet life.
"I am a motivated self-learner, so the online format worked perfectly for me," she said. "It has been the best. There's no other way for me. I could read the syllabus, see my tasks and arrange my schedule around them. There was a lot of flexibility.
"In the beginning of the RN to BSN program, there was a learning curve for me. Sixteen years ago, computers were not big in college. There were a lot of practical things I had to learn because I didn't know them."
Where the Heart Is
Carlisle was born and raised in Ringgold, Louisiana (population 1,372), not far from Shreveport. She knew from an early age which career path she would take.
"I come from a long line of nurses," she said. "I knew that it was something I was interested in from the time I was 14 years old. I went straight into college after high school and loved being a nurse. I want to stay in the rural areas. That's been my goal from the beginning."
After graduating from Northwestern State University in 2004, Carlisle started her nursing practice, always remaining close to home. She enrolled at ULM with the intention of continuing on to the Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner program.
"I chose ULM because of its overall nursing program," she said. "It was also less expensive than some of the other universities. I missed the deadline to apply for the master's degree program, so I recently started it at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette."
Carlisle's two favorite courses in ULM's online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing curriculum were NURS 4076: Nursing Management for RN to BSN and NURS 4077: Nursing Management RN to BSN Practicum.
"This summer was the hardest semester, but I also learned the most," she said. "I implemented the information in my everyday work life from those RN to BSN management classes. It was worth the time and effort learning it."
Especially because Carlisle was taking online courses for the first time in the program, she appreciated the guidance of the ULM faculty and staff.
"They have been extra supportive and friendly," she said. "They were very helpful throughout my time in the program. They are there to help you."
No Place Like It
Once Carlisle completes the master's degree program, she hopes to work toward opening her own rural health clinic near where she lives.
Although her family and friends weren't sure if she could earn a degree and maintain her busy schedule, they stood by her every step of the way.
"A few of them were hesitant because it's a big commitment," she said. "I have two teenagers, and I work full time. For the most part, it's been so helpful to me to have a lot of support and friends who are excited for me, push me and encourage me."
Carlisle believes that having a bachelor's degree, in addition to starting the MSN FNP program, will create more opportunities for her while she works toward her dream and continues doing what she loves.
"I believe the degree will open more doors for me," she said. "It's such a great program that's very smooth. I learned a lot of things in the RN to BSN program, like it's important to have good time management skills. You have to keep yourself on track."
The wait to return to college was worthwhile for Carlisle. Earning a bachelor's degree with more than 15 years of real-world experience under her belt made the accomplishment even sweeter. She is glad that she became a Warhawk.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the ULM RN to BSN program," she said. "I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to get their bachelor's degree."
Learn more about ULM's online RN to BSN program.
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