Sara Butcher is currently a student in the online RN to BSN dual enrollment program, graduating this year. This program allows students pursuing their associate degree in nursing at one of Mennonite College of Nursing’s partner colleges to begin working on their bachelor’s degree in nursing at Illinois State University before they graduate with their ADN.
Sara is also a recipient of the Kay Wilson scholarship, one of over 80 MCN scholarships. Read more about Sara’s journey to becoming a nurse below.
What made you consider nursing?
“My path to nursing was unconventional, but I think that’s normal for a lot of non-traditional or older students. I was working in restaurants throughout my early 20s and was starting to get anxious about job security and my future. I was fast approaching the age where I would no longer be able to be on my mom’s health insurance plan. She encouraged me to look into getting a job at the local hospital that she works at as a nurse. I applied for a job and was thinking I would answer phones or something, but the HR representative I spoke to pushed me into an on-the-job training program to be a health care tech. I started working as a tech and I loved how much I was able to learn at work every day. I really admired the nurses I worked with—they were all so smart and had great intuition as to what was happening with their patients. I was inspired to start taking prerequisites at Parkland about six months after I started. I like telling this story because I feel like starting college later in life can be so intimidating, but it’s possible to embark on a new career in your thirties. I was finally able to achieve the stability I had been missing and feel like I’m helping my community through my work.”
What made you choose MCN?
“ISU and MCN are really well-respected within the nursing community here in central Illinois. A lot of my colleagues had been to ISU for undergrad or were getting their MSN at ISU. It was important to me to get my BSN from a brick-and-mortar school with a name I had heard of rather than one of the other programs available online. I have colleagues who have gone through programs online whose BSN isn’t honored by the hospital we work for and I knew I didn’t want to deal with that. I live in Champaign and ISU was also pretty close if I needed to commute for anything.”
What made you consider the dual enrollment program?
“I was walking to class at Parkland one day and there was a representative from MCN who had a booth set up downstairs. I started talking to her about the program and she encouraged me to apply. I really didn’t think I would get in!”
What do you like about the program?
“I really liked the first few semesters of the dual enrollment program because I was specifically placed in classes that correlated to the classes I was taking at Parkland, so the pathopharmacology I was taking at MCN really helped me gain a greater understanding of disease processes and treatments for my med-surg class at Parkland. I like the online format and all the instructors I’ve had have been really helpful.”
How is the program preparing you for your future?
“In 2022, even if you graduate with your associate degree and get a nursing job, you will almost always be required to get your BSN at some point (especially if you want to work in a hospital). I am so thankful I made the choice to enter the dual enrollment program early on and that I will graduate with my BSN a year into my nursing career. I think that being involved in the dual enrollment program looked great on job applications and showed potential employers that I am hard-working, capable of handling stressful situations, and can juggle multiple different tasks.”
What do you want to do in the future in your career?
“I graduated from Parkland in December 2020, passed my NCLEX, and started working the night shift on a cardiovascular med-surg unit. Just like many other new nurses, I am struggling to balance work and home life and combat the burnout so many healthcare workers are facing right now. I am feeling more confident in my nursing practice and I’ve gained so much experience in the last year. I think that further down the line, I would like to work with more critical patients but right now I still feel like I’m getting my feet wet. I have so much time ahead of me to advance in this field, so my focus right now is really on maintaining that healthy work/life balance and making sure I take care of myself when I’m not at work so that I can still enjoy going to work.”
Would you recommend dual enrollment/MCN to others and why?
“I think dual enrollment would be beneficial to other students. I think that a lot of students don’t really know about dual enrollment and how easy it can be to slip in a couple of classes each semester when you’re already learning about the topics anyways. The concept of dual enrollment seems so intimidating, but I worked full-time and went to Parkland full-time for the first few semesters of my dual enrollment journey. It can definitely be done. The classes seem to be structured with consistent due dates too, so it’s easier to stay organized.”
How far along are you in the dual enrollment program?
“I only have two classes left! It really flew by. I remember going to orientation with my advisor at MCN and getting an outline of the classes I would be taking and when I would be taking them. 2022 seemed so far away then!”