online learning, online nursing programs, advanced nursing educationGoing back to nursing school can be a scary thought at any age but setting educational goals and committing to reach them is crucial to your success. Last year, I completed my Bachelor's in Nursing degree after being out of school for fourteen years.

I had some reservations but online learning allowed me to complete the program as well as continue to work full-time. Now, I am ready to advance my education in nursing with a Master's program at the age of 40. Looking at my life and career, I feel very blessed and fortunate for several reasons, but mostly because of where I started.

At eighteen years old, I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. Luckily, I had a wonderful support system. My family and soon-to-be husband was always there for me. Knowing I wanted to go to college, but not really sure of what I wanted to do, I decided to enter the Licensed Vocational Nursing program to become an LVN in eighteen months. I worked as a nurse’s aide in a local nursing home to prepare myself for the medical field. At 20, I graduated from LVN school in August of 1991 and the same month began prerequisites for the Associates Degree in Nursing to become an RN. It took me until 1997 to achieve that goal, but I never stopped pushing forward.     

Keeping myself focused was hard and stressful at times, but I am so glad that I was able to achieve what I set out to do. I wanted to be a mom and enjoy the fruits of my labor, so I didn't return to nursing school for years. Once again, I was a student and one class at a time, I graduated with my BSN degree. Now, I have a new goal in sight and that is to obtain my Master's in Nursing Education which is such an exciting thought, but intimidating as well.

Being a lifelong learner, especially in a constantly changing field, it is essential to stay competitive in our field. “Ancora Imparo” is what Michelangelo wrote when he was 87 years old. It means, “Still, I am learning”. I am encouraged and empowered by those words, so will I ever stop being the student? I sure hope not. I have been mentored by many wonderful nurses in my twenty years as a nurse. Each of them have urged me to pursue the next level in my career.

Furthering my education at 18 with a new baby was a scary venture, but so is earning your MSN degree in your 40's. My legacy is a mere attitude that I hope to pass on to my children, friends, family and anyone that I encounter. That is to have high ambitions, never stop learning, never stop being a student and always find yourself going back to school. No matter where you find yourself in your nursing career, it is important to have a mission. You never know how your words and actions might impact the life of someone like an 18 year-old trying to find his or her way in life, or a 40 year-old wanting to go back to school.

Returning to school can be a daunting experience but I encourage you to never quit, even when you run into a roadblock. The options are endless and technology has made going back to school more accessible and exciting than ever. I will be 43 years old and I plan on walking across the stage with a huge smile on my face, with my husband and children in the audience to cheer me on. Then, on to the next phase of life and maybe, heading back to my nursing school...again!