Rani James never had any doubt what she wanted to do for a career.
"I have wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember," James said. "I am one of those people. When I was a little girl, I said 'a nurse' when people asked, 'What are you going to be when you grow up?' I have always had that caring personality. I like to take care of others."
Sure enough, James followed through and became a nurse 15 years ago. Now, she hopes to take her career in a new direction. Sort of.
"I love patient care," James said. "One of the only ways to move up in nursing is management, but that's not really my thing. I want to stay at the bedside and be with patients."
Just like James did when she was a kid, she has a plan. James graduated from LSUA's online RN to BSN program in December 2017 and is enrolled in a Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner online program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
"When I was trying to figure out the next step in my career, it just fell into place," James said. "I talked to a friend who had been through a program, and I decided that's where I wanted to be. I'm not sure where I would like to work, but I do know that I want to take care of patients."
Where to Geaux?
James grew up in the Baton Rouge area, where she still lives and works as an RN in the Mother/Baby department for Woman's Hospital. She graduated with an Associate of Nursing degree from Our Lady of the Lake College in 2002 to become the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree.
"I have always heard great things about LSU, in general," James said. "When I started looking, I found LSUA. I had also heard great things about their nursing programs, and it was affordable. The fact that it was all online was a must."
James does shift work for Woman's Hospital, where she has spent her entire career. James and her husband, Richard, have two children, Reed (12) and Reese (9).
"On my days off, I can get my schoolwork done on my own time and still maintain my job and my family life," she said. "That was wonderful. I could take my work with me wherever we went. We took several vacations. I even went on a mission trip to Honduras last summer, and I was in the middle of a semester.
"My instructors were wonderful. They said, 'Just do what you can, and let me know if you need an extension.' I wound up not even having to take it because I was able to get everything done. The online format is great."
The nursing management courses were very eye-opening for James, but she got some serious practical knowledge that she will one day put to good use from the ENGL 3002: Technical Writing course.
"We had to develop a portfolio and a business plan," she said. "We worked on resumes, application letters. I have been at the same place for 15 years, so I haven't even looked at my resume. It was really good to do that kind of thing, because I am going to need it in the next couple of years."
In addition to completing a necessary step to enroll in a master's program, the online RN to BSN program gave James a chance to show her kids the importance of doing well in school.
"It was really cool," she said. "At the end of each semester, I showed them my grades. I think I made one 'B' the entire time. I said, 'Look, mom made a 4.0.'"
Even with her emphasis on education, James was okay with her kids missing classes for one day for a road trip upstate.
"We let them skip school to come to graduation because we thought that was so important for them to see," she said. "There were a few times I had to miss out on family outings to finish a project or take a test. It was like a little bonus for them to get to come and watch me graduate. It was very well organized and very nice. That was my first time going to Alexandria. It's a pretty little town."
James, who enjoys fitness and traveling, is greatly benefiting from the help her family and friends are giving her in her academic pursuits.
"Most people are very supportive, although some thought I was crazy," she said. "My husband was very supportive -- especially with the program being so flexible. I think it was a lot easier for him being on board knowing that I could pretty much do this from anywhere."
On to the Next One
James didn't skip a beat after she graduated from LSUA, immediately enrolling in the master's program at UL Lafayette in January 2018.
"I'm so glad that I did them back to back," James said. "It made the transition easy. I am doing the MSN FNP program part-time, so it will take me about three years to complete. I thought about doing full-time, but I want to be able to be there for my family while pursuing my dream."
In addition, James has time to travel with her family and to work, doing what she loves, providing care for mothers and their babies as a nursing veteran. No matter which direction James takes her career, she knows that LSUA was the right place to get the management ball rolling.
"For someone who needs that flexibility, LSUA is a great place to be," James said. "Every instructor I had was so accommodating. Everyone wanted you to succeed, which I don't think you find everywhere. Because it had been a while since I had been in school, I was sort of intimidated. Moodle and all of the tutorials for the online programs made it so easy."
Learn more about the LSUA online RN to BSN program.
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