When Alex Holcer was a young girl, her father passed away from a brain aneurysm. During his hospital stay, she was inspired by those who attended to his care. She followed in their footsteps by enrolling in the online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at Northwest Missouri State University.
But she took a small detour first. After her father's death, care of the farm fell to her mother, her younger sister and her. Growing up on a ranch inspired her to obtain a college degree in agricultural science, and she ended up working on the business side of things.
"I had district sales manager roles for various seed companies," she said.
However, the work did not fulfill her. Therefore, she began a transition toward a life she had imagined for a long time and considered the requirements of becoming a nurse.
A Road Less Traveled
A foot in the door was all it took for Holcer to begin her nursing journey.
"One day, I applied to the LPN program at North Central in Trenton on a whim. I got in. I started the LPN program in August of 2017," she said.
After completing the LPN program in the summer of 2018, she worked the night shift as a charge nurse at a nursing home, helping maintain patient care quality. She was determined to continue making progress, starting an ADN program shortly after that.
"I just stayed working PRN [pro re nata, meaning "as needed"] on the night shift and then going to school full time on top of that," Holcer said.
After graduating, she moved into a Mosaic Life Care hospital in a new role as an RN.
"Cardiac step-down," she said. "So, it's not a basic med-surg unit; it's a higher level of care, but not ICU."
Building on Experience
Holcer looked at a few other programs, but Northwest's online RN to BSN appealed to her the most. It was a very comfortable transition for her, which made the process as easy as it could be.
"I liked that the course blocks are more manageable than what some of these other schools had laid out on their timelines. It almost seemed like they were cramming way too much information into a short time," she said.
Online coursework was much more comfortable than she initially expected, though the scheduling took some adjustments.
"I wasn't quite sure I would get the same kind of experience that I had as an on-ground learner for so many years," Holcer said. "I was kind of nervous, but everything's been really manageable. The timeline for each class has been doable because you always know you're going to have assignments due usually on Wednesday and Sunday."
Northwest's RN to BSN online program helped Holcer develop leadership skills and deepen her understanding of how evidence-based practice relates to patient outcomes. She learned a great deal about leadership and applying nursing theories to patient scenarios.
"That's been really important," she said. "There's been a lot of correlation, at least moving into this new role."
Essential courses for her included NURS 401: Leadership and Management in Nursing and NURS 301: Theories and Models of Nursing, taught by Dr. Brooke McAtee. Holcer found Dr. McAtee easy to get along with and receptive to students who needed help.
"Dr. McAtee will reach out and make sure that we genuinely understand what's going on," Holcer said. "And if we have a problem, she wants to help us work through it. Even if it's not for the class, just in terms of being enrolled in the BSN program."
Having started a new job in the ICU in February of 2021, Holcer is learning the ropes and gaining confidence every day. She graduated from the online RN to BSN program in March. The experience has motivated her to continue developing her skills as a nurse leader, possibly seeking even more education down the line.
"I'm thinking about doing a master's in nursing education with the leadership focus," she added. "That way I can stay involved in the clinical role of nursing and still have some patient care but help introduce this best new evidence-based practice."
Northwest's online RN to BSN program has directly informed Holcer's development of an infection prevention initiative in the ICU, which requires further research to improve hospital processes.
"If we don't work to improve something, then we're not helping our patients the best we can," she said. "Evidence is changing every day, so if somebody doesn't look for it, then I feel like we're doing a disservice to everybody."
Holcer lives on a farm with her husband, who grows row crops like corn and soybeans. They enjoy traveling when conditions allow for it, as well as spending time with their niece.
Now, Holcer has come full circle after the tragedy of her young life to realize her dream as a nurse and impact patients in her own ICU experience. She has taken quite the path to get there, but it is a calling she couldn't ignore.
Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online RN to BSN program.
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