After working as a nurse for a decade, Erika Klemmer had to adapt quickly when her husband took a job 1,500 miles away from her established nursing career in a Houston suburb.
"I told him not to go for the interview because we weren't moving," she said of his East Coast job pursuit and her desire to stay put, "but it didn't work out too well for me. In Pennsylvania, it's pretty hard to work without a BSN."
After researching her options, she chose the online RN to BSN program at La Salle University. She appreciated being able to gauge the scope of the program before enrolling, with its flexibility meeting her requirements, too. She graduated from the online program in December 2020.
"La Salle's online program was a lot more transparent in what courses I needed and why they're part of the program," said Klemmer.
A Whole New World
Living a half-hour away from Philadelphia, the mom of a 7-year-old daughter adjusted to her new environment. The work she had been doing in Texas with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) required a BSN in Pennsylvania. To attain Magnet status, many hospitals need more than 80% of their nurses to have a BSN.
Perhaps the calling to be a caregiver was in her blood even before she took nursing classes back home in Fort Worth, Texas, at Tarrant County College — her mother and aunt were nurses. The ADN Klemmer earned enabled her to "get out in a fourth of the money and half the time" compared to a four-year program. However, she realized she would need a BSN to progress in her nursing career.
"I worked at the same hospital since I graduated [with my ADN]. I knew all the administrators. I knew all the ins and outs," Klemmer said. "I was building a career; I was getting ready to take over for someone. It hurt to lose that and then get up to Pennsylvania and find out you can't work at a hospital because you don't have a bachelor's. So, I was thankful that I found La Salle's program."
Twist of Fate
While in Texas, Klemmer gained experience after graduating with an ADN. She got her start as a surgical ICU nurse and then spent four years as part of a rapid response team.
"They're the emergency crew of the hospitals," she said. "Usually, a nurse and a respiratory therapist; we had the ability to do things that most nurses on the floor couldn't do without a doctor's order."
Her 10+ years of nursing experience in Texas did not offset the lack of a BSN when the family moved to Pennsylvania. Due to hiring restrictions at area hospitals, Klemmer needed to consider other options, including roles in private practice offices and a stint as a summer school nurse. She also spent this time attaining appropriate credentials that would allow her to apply for hospital positions.
"Having a small child while in virtual school, it was nice to be able to complete 100% of my RN to BSN online," Klemmer said. "I never had to go into a classroom. I don't think I would have been able to do it if I didn't have the opportunity to do it all online."
She admitted to feeling shaky in the virtual format, initially, but she soon got up to speed, noting how helpful the library was to gain insights and information she was looking for throughout the process.
"Everything was pretty well laid out," she said. "I reached out to quite a few people in the library system when I had to look for journal articles. It was nice that you have all the support you need at a click of a button."
Getting Back to Business
RN to BSN Assistant Director Sheila McLaughlin offered invaluable help as Klemmer's academic adviser, especially when she was one sociology credit shy of graduation.
"Sheila McLaughlin found me a class; she contacted the heads of that department to make sure to get me into the class, which had already been going for a week," Klemmer said. "She knew I wanted to get done that semester. I don't know how she did it, but she got me in, got me going and made sure I was comfortable."
Klemmer found the Religion Matters prerequisite course useful, as it illustrated how to relate with people from various backgrounds.
"It opened my eyes to different situations that I may come across with patients and why they would prefer things to be done differently," she stated. "I thought that was pretty unique."
One major takeaway from the program was how much Klemmer enjoyed helping other students learn new techniques. She may eventually pursue an MSN in nursing education to optimize patient care by expanding her role in nursing education and operations.
Learn more about La Salle University's online RN to BSN program.
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