If you would have told Ruth Lamb she was going to be a nurse five years ago, she would not have believed you.
“There’s probably no way. I was a totally different person then,” she says.
The mom of four children ranging from 13 to 22 began her career as a computer programmer in the ‘90s. Five years into that, she decided to stay at home with her kids as her family grew and she tired of working behind a desk. It took another 20 years and an overnight hospital stay for her to consider a career switch to nursing.
“My nursing staff was fantastic, and at the time I was looking at, ‘what do you do post-four kids?’ I feel like I answered that question when I was in the hospital,” she says.
Ever since, as her kids have grown up and she contemplated re-entering the workforce, Ruth says she’s felt called to nursing and away from computer programming.
“You change when you’re a mom. You get out and you talk to people. You become different,” she says. “I wanted something that I could help people. When you’re a mom you tend to be more nurturing and caring.”
Below we share how she went from stay-at-home mom to where she is now — a nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at Saint Thomas West Hospital in Nashville.
Making the transition to nursing school
As Ruth pondered the notion of making a career switch to nursing, she wondered if going back to school full-time made sense for her at this stage in her life. Lucky for her, Marian University’s ABSN program has a team of admissions advisors who work solely with second-degree ABSN students and their unique needs.
From her first contact with her admissions advisor, she felt heard.
“It was, ‘Can I do this? Can I not do this? Can I do it with four kids? She got me in touch with people who had children to make sure my questions were answered,” she says. “She answered everything and answered honestly. I had no surprises when I got in, which was a relief. I knew what I was getting into when I got here.”
Creating an academic plan
Before she could begin in our ABSN program though, Ruth had to complete a series of science and humanities prerequisite courses. Because she didn’t have any transferable credits from her previous business degree, her advisor recommended beginning with prerequisites to see if she’d even enjoy returning to school to become a nurse.
As it turned out, she did: Ruth loved her first prerequisite course — chemistry — and knew right then that she was making the right decision. From there her advisor navigated Ruth through the next step, which involved taking the rest of her prerequisites online through Marian’s Adult Programs (MAP). With this program, Ruth could complete her prerequisites online from anywhere and on an accelerated timeline.
Going this route to complete her prerequisites also helped Ruth prepare for what was to come with the online portion of the ABSN program — something she valued as a stay-at-home mom balancing family life while making a career switch to nursing.
“The flexibility of online is definitely nice,” she says. “There’s also the inflexibility of you have to be here when you test, you have to be here for clinicals and labs, but I felt I could balance my studying around my kids. I could listen to the lectures when I had my time. I could for the most part still go to their school events and just plan my day around studying.”
Getting into nursing school
All that hard work and sacrifice paid off when she found out she was accepted into the program after completing all the prerequisite courses.
“Oh, that was exciting… You feel like, ‘Wow, I did it.’ I did something for myself again. It’s definitely a rewarding feeling. It’s something you put a lot of effort into, especially someone like me who is a business major all the sudden changed to a science major and now an RN. You definitely want to give yourself a pat on the back,” she says.
Learning and caring through clinical experience
A lot of what Ruth learned as a nursing student involved applying the skills and knowledge she learned through online coursework and labs directly into diverse real-world scenarios during clinical rotations.
“In nursing, everything you learn in your textbooks and clinicals you actually do in real life. … Everything is exactly what you do, and that is critical,” she says.
From the perspective of her role as a mom, she also loved that she had opportunities to care for patients during clinicals. During her Community Concepts clinical, for example, she helped give eye exams at Community Day at Nashville Municipal Auditorium.
“My community (clinical) was fantastic. … My maternity experience at Rutherford was wonderful,” she says. “Actually, there wasn’t a clinical that I didn’t really like.”
Applying holistic care
The ability for Ruth to complete her clinicals through Saint Thomas, a faith-based organization with a strong reputation that partners with Marian University for clinical rotations, also played a large role in her decision to choose Marian University’s ABSN program in Nashville, Tennessee.
She appreciated that the ABSN curriculum emphasizes the power of holistic patient care, which treats the mind, body, and spirit, and that instructors focused on teaching how to exhibit genuine caring behavior.
Ruth embraced that spirit of holistic care as an ABSN student, so much so that it left a lasting impression on the family of a patient she cared for during her clinical rotations. To show their gratitude, that patient’s family gave a donation to the hospital in her name through Saint Thomas Health’s Guardian Angel program, which honors a caregiver who made a difference during their hospital visit.
“I think that’s also from Marian emphasizing that while we need to be clinically smart, that can be taught. But what can’t be taught is to care about a patient and to look at someone regardless of finances, or whose laying there, and just caring for them because they’re a human being,” she says.
Learning leadership and management
While Ruth gained something from each of her clinical experiences, the one that stood out the most to her was Marian University’s leadership and management course, which every ABSN student must complete during their fourth semester.
Unique to our ABSN program, it allows students to job shadow a leader within the Saint Thomas Health system. Ruth’s leadership and management clinical took place in the emergency room at Saint Thomas West. There, she had the chance to attend employee and staff meetings and work on a special project.
Becoming a nurse
Ruth’s ABSN program experience came full circle on graduation day. After all the time spent studying for exams and being away from family to complete labs and clinicals, she did it. She graduated.
“It was awesome. Probably the best thing that happened to me was my kids looking at me and saying, ‘Wow, I’m really proud of you, Mom.’”
After graduation, she worked as a nurse extern at Saint Thomas West, large in part thanks to her experience as a Marian University ABSN student. That eventually led to her job at the hospital — what she set out to do to pay forward the care she received from her nurses during her own hospital stay.
“I work three days a week for 12 hours and then I have my family,” she says. “It’s a great job, you just have to be able to love who you’re taking care of every day. …It’s an honor to take care of people.”
Ready to make your career switch to nursing?
Ruth’s advice to anyone who wants to become a registered nurse: Give it your all.
“You have to be committed. Don’t take it lightly. Don’t plan on going on vacation for a week, missing classes. This is what you need to do. If you’re going to do it, it needs to be a 100% commitment or you won’t succeed,” she says.
If you’re ready to make your dream of becoming a nurse a reality, contact us today to learn more about Marian University’s ABSN program.