Green Bay, Wis., professional nursing student Dana Hainer is more than ready to start her nursing career.
She enrolled in nursing school years ago but received a last-minute phone call that would dramatically change the course of her life. The adoption agency she’d been working with for months was calling to tell her that her application was approved and that she could adopt her first child.
“I chose to pursue the adoption and put my career on hold,” Hainer says. “Little did I know it’d be a long stretch before I could get back to it.”
Caring for son sets stage for career
Hainer devoted the next several years of her life to caring for her oldest adopted son, who was diagnosed with multiple medical conditions including autism and bi-polar disorder.
Yet another twist came for Hainer in 2008 when she divorced her husband. The move granted her custody of her two adopted sons but it also meant she needed to find a way to quickly support her family.
Hainer says the experience of going through a divorce and raising a disabled son was stressful, but if there was a silver lining to find, it was that it helped prepare her for her nursing education.
“Seventy-five percent of my [nursing] skills come from caring for my son and advocating for children with autism,” she says. “Because of my experience I have a lot of tools in my toolbox that other nurses might not have.”
Hainer says her experiences helping school districts adapt their programs for autistic children and running support groups for parents of disabled children taught her how to communicate effectively with patients and families. Raising her son has also given her an inside look at the patient perspective.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals with [my son] so I know what it’s like to need medical care and what their families’ experience is like,” Hainer says. “It helps to have that perspective when working with patients’ families.”
Rasmussen College’s appeal
As can be expected, Hainer ran into some financial difficulty after the divorce. Put simply, she needed to get her career started as soon as possible.
But she ran into a substantial wait list for the nursing program at a local college after taking some general education classes there. But Rasmussen College’s Green Bay campus had no waiting list at the time, so needless to say, Hainer jumped at the opportunity.
“I was really impressed with how the staff members at Rasmussen followed up with me and helped me get the preliminary work [for starting the nursing program] done,” Hainer says. “Being an older student I didn’t have time to wait so I needed to complete my education as soon as possible.”
Another factor that made Rasmussen College appealing to Hainer is the approachability of the faculty and staff—School of Nursing dean Bill Hartman, in particular.
“In my experience at other schools speaking with a dean would be a very stressful experience,” Hainer recalls. “[Speaking with Hartman] is pretty much the opposite of that. He’s the most friendly, caring person you could imagine for that position.”
Facing new challenges
Returning to school can be an intimidating experience, especially after a lengthy absence. Hainer says the level of technology usage, in particular, required some time for adjustment. “When I first went to college there was literally one computer for an entire department,” she says.
Hainer leaned on the Rasmussen College support staff for help and was able to pick up on any unfamiliar programs and practices including the then-foreign concept of submitting coursework by email. She says that although it may have taken extra work, her life is now easier because of her new grasp on technology.
In addition to the technological hurdles Hainer had to overcome, there was also the more straightforward challenge of mastering her coursework and being able to apply her knowledge in a clinical setting.
“I think the most frustrating part for me [during clinicals] was that I wanted to be excellent and experienced right away,” Hainer says. “But there’s so much to learn that it’s not really possible.”
Hainer feels like she has a good start but she realizes that graduating is just the beginning. She knows there’s still a lot for her to learn through experience.
A lifelong student
Hainer is scheduled to finish her studies in December 2013 and plans to take the NCLEX-RN exam soon after graduation. She says her late start on a nursing career isn’t going to deter her from returning to school and earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing as well.
“I could potentially be working for another 25 years,” said Hainer. “So taking a couple more years of schooling to do something I really enjoy seems like a good investment to me.”
It’s never too late to make your return to school and pursue a degree in a field you’ve always dreamed of working in. Click the “Request Program Info” for more information on the degrees and programs offered at Rasmussen College.