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Going Back to School for Nursing: One Mom Shares How It’s Possible

"Nursing student and mom - You can do both!" - Woman working on laptop with man and child in background

Marlita Clark always knew she wanted to work in the healthcare field, she just wasn’t sure in exactly what capacity. So she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from University of Tennessee Chattanooga, figuring she could apply it to any healthcare career path she might pursue in the future.

But, as with a lot of us, Marlita says, “life happened.” She got married, had a daughter and started a career in sales in Texas.

“Totally something different from biology,” she says.

Flash forward several years, and the thought of going back to school for nursing entered Marlita’s mind after she started talking with one of her friends who went through the Marian University Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program in Nashville.

“I spent time a lot of time talking to her over that 16-month period. I fell in love with Marian and discovered nursing was where it was at,” she says.

I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about it and came to the decision that nursing was what I wanted to do and Marian University was where I wanted to do it.

Below we share how she landed on Marian’s ABSN program for her nursing education, how she successfully combined mom life with accelerated nursing school, and how the ABSN program helped her land her job as a nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at Saint Thomas West Hospital in Nashville.

What factors did Marlita consider when going back to nursing school?

After making the decision of going back to school for nursing, Marlita had to factor in several variables when choosing a program that was the best fit for her, including program speed, the number of prerequisites needed to enroll and the program’s clinical affiliation.

Speed

Since she already had a bachelor’s degree in biology and a family, Marlita knew a traditional 4-year nursing program would not fit in with her lifestyle.

“I did not want to spend a long period in school, but I also wanted a quality program,” she says.

Marian’s 16-month program with three start dates per year — in January, May and August — met that criterion for her. The fact that Marian University, its Leighton School of Nursing and the online-based ABSN program maintain accreditations at the national, regional and state levels was icing on the cake.

Prerequisites

Marlita also knew she would likely have to complete prerequisite courses for any nursing program she enrolled in because she had been out of school for nine years.

The Marian ABSN program has six prerequisites — two general credits and four science credits — that can be completed through Marian’s Adult Programs (MAP) 100 percent online in an accelerated format through the same eLearning platform as the ABSN program.

“With Marian it seemed like the majority of the prerequisites I had to take were to jog my memory,” she says. “I felt taking the prerequisites through MAP better prepared me for being in the nursing program.”

Marlita Clark standing by "Saint Thomas Health" sign

Hospital affiliation

Marlita also appreciated that the Marian ABSN program in Nashville, Tennessee, is located on the fifth floor of Saint Thomas West.

“I felt that would give me more access and a realistic view of what I’d be doing as a nurse, and you get to build relationships with people in the hospital,” she says.

Close-knit community

There was one more thing Marlita admits she wasn’t initially looking for in a nursing program, but ultimately was what led her to choose the Marian ABSN program for her nursing education: A supportive learning environment with instructors dedicated to her success.

While welcoming to all students no matter their religious affiliation, the Marian ABSN program uses the importance of faith to teach students how to take a holistic approach to patient care, which focuses on treating the whole person — mind, body and spirit. That caring philosophy carries over into how instructors interact with students, Marlita says.

Marlita Clark

When you see those individuals who work there, you can tell that they uphold all those beliefs of Marian and want to see students succeed.

“Seeing that in the staff made me drawn more to choose Marian over others,” she says.

How did Marlita combine nursing school and mom life?

Once she decided to enroll in the Marian ABSN program, Marlita began to brainstorm other ways to balance her busy lifestyle with nursing school. Lucky for her, the Marian ABSN program’s online learning platform and supportive instructors and family members were there to help her through.

Flexible online learning

Marlita appreciated the ABSN program’s online learning component because it allowed her to learn nursing theory from anywhere as it fit with her schedule — a vital fact given she was also balancing life with a 3-year-old daughter.

She had some latitude over when she studied, but she understood she still had to meet instructors’ deadlines and sit for proctored exams at the ABSN program site. To be successful, Marlita knew she’d need to stay disciplined and organized with how she managed her time.

Canvas, the eLearning platform that houses the ABSN curriculum, made it easier for her to do that, she says, because she could easily find all the due dates and relevant course information as well as contact her instructors with any questions in one place.

Strong support system

Marlita also says she couldn’t have had as much success in the program without the support of her family and her nursing school instructors and classmates.

For childcare and scheduling family time, she relied on the support of local relatives.

Without them first semester I would not have been able to complete the program. I had to be at the hospital at 6:30 or 7 a.m. for clinicals, while daycares don’t open until 6:30 and my commute is at least 40 minutes

“It was definitely a team effort going back to nursing school,” she says.

For studying and other support resources, she leaned on nursing school staff, instructors and fellow cohort members.

“In the very beginning it seemed every instructor made it known what the course expectations were and how to utilize resources if we needed any help. They made it very clear, which helped take some weight off your shoulders,” she says.

How did Marian ABSN help Marlita land a nursing job?

Marlita always put her best foot forward during clinical rotations because she understood how much her performance could shape her future as a nurse. Little did she know how much her experience in the program — specifically her placement in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) for the Clinical Immersion Experience all ABSN students must take during their fourth semester — would affect her career.

“During that rotation, I fell in love with the challenge that each patient brought, the teamwork on the unit and the genuine desire of each team member to aid in my journey to becoming a nurse,” she says. “Being on the unit allowed the unit leaders to see my work ethic and understand that I was a great fit for the team, so joining the team was easy.”

Marlita Clark

Besides helping her land her job, Marlita says the fact that many of her clinicals took place within Saint Thomas Health made her transition into the nursing workforce that much smoother.

Learning the computer system, navigating the hospital and understanding its work culture felt easier for her than for other nurse residents who did not attend Marian, she says.

“Attending Marian set me up for success and helped give me the confidence needed to be a new nurse,” she says.

You can become a nurse, too!

The Marian ABSN program made going back to nursing school possible for Marlita, even while she balanced life as a mom of a young toddler. She says that’s partly because it allowed her to earn her degree in 16 months, complete her nursing theory coursework online and lean on the support of family members and her nursing school instructors and classmates.

What is Marlita’s advice for other moms considering going back to nursing school?

“You should enroll,” she says. “You can do it if you’re truly committed, but it’s intense. You don’t ease into nursing school. The second day you jump straight in. You get experience from the very beginning.”

Ready to get started on pursuing your dream of becoming a nurse like Marlita? Reach out to our admissions team today!

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