How to be an APN in ten easy steps....or how to spend oodles of $$ on your education

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    How to become an advanced practice nurse in ten easy steps!

    My very different educational path has probably furnished some professor with a new BMW or Lexus. I am not endorsing this route but rather explaining why you should look before you leap…we have to start in the beginning…

    I am now middle-aged (ouch, even hurts to type those letters). But, let’s face it; my 50th birthday was last year and unless I plan to live to be past 100, I AM middle-aged. As such, I think I have earned the right to reflect back on my path..

    Graduated from high school in 1977 and went right into nursing school. Got a little apartment, worked nights as a nursing assistant (before they had to be certified) and toiled away at school. Okay, now its May 1978 and I’ve been in school for over a year and have just one semester left (I had done my pre-reqs while in HS). I’m getting tired of the grind and want something different. So…I wandered into the military recruiting office. The Air Force guy was on the phone, the Army people were out to lunch but hey, here is a Navy man, all decked out in his whites – not too shabby! “How would you like to be in the Navy?” Okay what do you have to offer me? $$$ for college (sounds good to a broke student), chance to travel and meet new people. So..he sits me down and I take this aptitude test: “wow, he says, you are smart.” Being all of 19, I was flattered. Like a used car salesman, he then tells (sells) me that “he doesn’t want me to waste my life” and that I could get valuable experience in the Navy. And…I would get a regular paycheck and my rent, meals, uniforms would all be paid for by the Navy. What a deal! Less than one week later, I was in Chicago and then Orlando for boot camp. First big mistake of my life: Florida in May, June and July! Hot, hot, hot!

    Anyway, fast forward to 1980, met my husband, got married and oh oh…since he was in the Air Force, we couldn’t be stationed toether. Ooops, forgot to figure out that one should fall in love with someone in the same branch of the military. Okay, I’ll get out and follow him around..done deal.

    Again, fast forward to 1990 – after moving all over the world (literally), I head back to school. Now, I KNOW I want to be a nurse. However, stupid person that I was, I didn’t drop my classes when I joined the USN, I just quit going to school, leaving me with a 0.7gpa. Needless to say, few schools were impressed. Did pre-reqs again, got accepted into an LPN program on academic probation. I’m now a serious student and do fine, gpa-wise. Hubby still on active duty, we keep moving..went from the LPN program right into an ADN program and voila….I’m an RN! Moved yet again and took an ER job..after a few years, I realized that going back to school was going to be necessary…

    Had I been smart, I would have looked into an ADN to MSN program. Nope, not me..type A person that I am, I just jumped into an online BSN program, finished that, then went into an MSN program. However, when I finished the MSN program, I realized that I didn’t like management and it was a non-clinical MSN track. Oh oh, goofed again! Back to school for a post-MSN adult heath CNS. Ok – finished that and oh oh again, no jobs! Took a job outside the ER and figured I would get back to the ER forward to now and I’m heading back to school to pick up yet another post-MSN CNS, this time in child/family.

    My convoluted path has caused many problems: spent too much time, money and effort in school. Looking back, I wished that I had stayed in school the first time. However, then I consider I would never have met my husband (we are at our 29th anniversary in two weeks), never would have had my two sons, never would have had my grandchildren. Life happens for a reason….and I’m just now accepting that. Well….I have another 50 years or so to accept it I guess!
    Last edit by Joe V on May 6, '09
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  3. by   island40
    You have given me hope!! I graduated HS 1984, ADN 1992 (2 kids, Army and husband later), BSN 1997 and MSN 2006 (nursing Ed). I want my FNP certificate. Back to school I go and I have never paid off my student loans.
  4. by   traumaRUs
    Exactly Island40 - I'm still paying off my BSN student loans! One of the reasons I'll be working till I'm 70! lol - glad to know I'll have company.
  5. by   zulfra
    I agree with you. Things happens for a reason.......Never look back to the things that could or could not happen.....keep your eyes to your future!!!
  6. by   Heogog53
    Well, I started out as a social science major in college. I fell in love with anthropology. I fell in love with archeology, worse yet. I pushed through all my major requirements, was finished with all requirements for graduation by my junior year, just didn't have the credit hours done. So, as a senior, I was accepted in the Integrated Graduate Studies Program; I start grad school as a senior. After a semester or two, I realized that I couldn't do my MA at that university, I needed to go elsewhere. Applied AGAIN to grad school, got accepted done with all my credit hours and moved south to my new grad school. My advisor, as it turned out(and it took me awhile to figure this out), didn't like opening his field to women. He was not much of a supporter, gave me no encouragement, and after two semester, I needed to start working on my thesis. I couldn't figure out where to start..which should have told me to find a different area in anthro to do grad work...Oh well. I quit grad school, got a job in Mississippi doing archeology. Met my now ex-husband. When he graduated, we moved to where his job was. There was a community hospital within five minutes of the house, and I figured that as a nurse, I'd always find a job.
    I applied, and was told that it was too bad, I'd applied too late for the coming school year. About 2 weeks later, I got a call, asking if I were still interested. I had a week to get measured for uniforms, purchase them, get a dentist and a doctor to let the school know that I physically capable of doing nursing school and wasn't going present with any horrible medical problems.

    I started nursing school in Aug of 1979. Everyone in the room, that first day, had to introduce themselves, talk a bit about their background, education, and the reason we'd picked nursing school. Out of 67 people, 66 answered either they loved reading about Florence Nightengale or they wanted to help the world! Number 67, me, answered with," I want to be a nurse so I can get a job". OOOooOOOoOooooo. EVERYONE'S heads turned to glare at me; the rest of my fellow students and the entore faculty of the school. I thought it was kind of funny that just wanting a job was so offensive to them! They, of course, wanted jobs, too!

    I graduated with-yuppers-a Diploma in Nursing. I worked hard to get it, too. Of course, as soon as I got out of nursing school, the local college and the hospital announced the development of the joint BSN program, starting with encouraging the recent grads to get their BSN's.

    Got my first job, thought about becoming a BSN or a CNRA or something else. Well, the new BSN program was going through all kinds of changes, so the curriculum they quoted to you at the beginning of the year wouldn't be the same at the end of the year. Granted, they were learning their way along, too. However, I kept taking classes and then be told, "OH NO, you didn't need that one, you needed this one!" After doing that for three semsters, I lost complete confidence in every getting my BSN from there.

    Next bright idea was Massage Therapy School- cost $$$$. I got through that, was good at it, and suddenly became very ill. My private practice never had a chance to take off....sigh.

    So, now, at the age of 56, I would like to go back to school. I do regard the need for someone who graduated magna cumme laude from college, who was able to start Master's work as a senior in college and then take a year of grad courses elsewhere to get a BSN as absurd. I especially dislike the fact that despite having all those credit hours(creaking and rusty taht they may be), and years of experience, why I can't be admitted directly into a MSN program without taking a number of BRIDGE courses, or having to do some kind of semi-BSN make up classes.

    So, now that I want to go back to school, I'm soooo torn about what kind of graduate education I should try. I could look into becoming some kind of MSN, or a Legal Nurse Consultant, or a PA-MS. And of course, I would have difficulty working fulltime and going to school fullltime- a number of graduate degrees suggest that you can't work at all while pursuing, say, a CRNA(and I can understand why, from what I've seen), or having to do an 8 credit hour clinical several semesters in a row or doing the PA.

    Anyone have any suggestions? Not trying to whine here, just having trouble figuring out what would be a good direction to go in, so now that I've thought about it, and can't come to a resolution, perhaps y'all could help me???

    And yes, lots and lots of money spent!
  7. by   cingle

    Have you looked into Vanderbilt's program?

  8. by   LadysSolo
    You have more company than you realize - I started in Veterinary science in 1973, 99th percentiel in the veterinary aptitude test, 3.9 GPA, and was told "no" because I was female (back when that was legal. Got a BSN in biology, diploma in nursing, decided after 20 years that I couldn't lift people for 20 more years, went back and became an adult NP. Will have to work till I'm 70.
  9. by   Soozul
    Hi, Don't beat yourself up.What about people like me?I came from a screwed up family that didn't instill any self-esteem or values in me, never stressed education or helped with expenses past 16 years old.Here I am a 47 trying to study for degree @ home & now have serious health problems.If I had started young like you, my life would be easier.Worry about children, expenses, finishing, even being able to work. So what if you had some detours?--you were young. Hang in there
  10. by   traumaRUs
    Thanks Soozul - good luck with YOUR path!
  11. by   Heogog53
    Thanks for the suggestion. Can you tell me more about it?
  12. by   traumaRUs
    Heogog - what do you like about nursing? What type of nursing do you do now? Would you be interested in an APN role or an educator role? I'm such a type A that when I want something, I just jump into it hook, line and sinker and then too late, realize I'm still holding on to the anchor!

    My advice (take it for what its worth - lol) is to really think about what you want to do and can do for the next 20 years.
  13. by   cingle

    You can check out the website at and then click on the nursing school. Top 20 in the country...expensive, but excellent. They have a bridge program that does not require a bachelor degree for entrance into the master's program.
  14. by   Heogog53
    Well, thanks Cingle, I'll look into it.

    As for what do I like about nursing and what do I do for a living as a nurse?

    I'm an OR nurse. I did Critical Care out of school, got into some political trouble with the Director of Critical Care, transferred to the OR over her strenuous objections and have now worked in 5 OR's. I've also done some home health care(was DON of a small home health care agency), tried out LTC and tried working for a few months as a psych nurse(biggest mistake I ever made).

    I've been in the OR since 1984. I'd love to be a Nurse Educator(but not where I work now!) or possibly a NP working with pain management(large interest of mine).

    My back is a mess, I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, have had shingles, vertigo and missed lots of work for them as well as the back injury(a patient fell on me).
    I'm getting much too old for this staff nurse stuff. Right now I am able to work 3 8's a week, hoping to go to 3 10's soon. I fear that I may never be able to work fulltime again.
    As to going to grad school and working----I'm not sure how I'd manage it; working alone takes all the stuffing out of me.

    This seems to be some kind of a crossroads for me. Am still contemplating my navel about school, about what I'd be looking for in a MSN program....

    A very confused RN