Twin sisters Ashley and Kayla Johnson already had the same job, the same house, the same wanderlust and even the same car.
It only made sense for them to earn the same college degree together. Again.
The Johnsons, 25, are enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner online program at the University of Texas at Arlington. They both graduated with a BSN from Prairie View A&M University in 2014.
“In the future, my sister and I want to work in a clinic, possibly for women’s services or forensic nursing,” Ashley said. “That’s the reason we wanted to go back to school. We’ve always been super tight. Our mom made us dress alike when we were little.”
While they earn their master’s degrees online, the Johnsons are working full-time in the labor and delivery unit at Memorial Hermann Hospital.
“Everyone gets confused,” Kayla said. “It is so funny sometimes. Typically, during shift change when I get report on her patients, we have to go in together and tell them, ‘Hey, this is my twin. I don’t want you to be alarmed.’ We look alike. The patients get a kick out of it.”
Both of the Johnson sisters have their grandmother, Betty Radcliffe, to thank for piquing their interest in the nursing field.
“When we were younger, she used to babysit us,” Kayla explained. “All of her stories were about nursing on different units. She has worked in pediatrics, intensive care unit and some postpartum. It really got us interested in becoming nurses, and that was what we decided to do.”
Ashley said she and Kayla first discussed following in their grandmother’s footsteps as early as middle school. By the time they graduated from high school their minds were made up.
“Kayla was right there with me,” Ashley said. “We completed nursing school together; we took prerequisites together. It’s easier for both of us because we study together, so it has made school easier.”
One of Kayla’s favorite stories from her grandmother was about a child in a hospital in San Antonio.
“She said it was snowing and there was a little girl she had whose parents couldn’t visit her during the day because they had to work,” Kayla said. “My grandma is such a nurturing and caring person. She said she just loved being with this girl every day. She would make sure she got that assignment so she could be there for the little girl, knowing her parents could not. I just love my grandma’s personality. That really stuck out to me.”
The Johnson sisters enrolled at Prairie View A&M after they graduated from high school, where they were also cheerleaders together. They also volunteered for Relay for Life and Tour de Pink, a charity bike ride for cancer, and served on the Prairie View Student Nurse Association and National Nurse Association during their undergraduate years.
“It’s not really a surprise to me that we’re so close,” Kayla said. “We were like that in high school, too. We didn’t plan to work at the same hospital but we ended up working on the same unit — it just kind of happened right out of college.”
Once they formulated a long-term goal in their nursing careers, the Johnsons knew they would need to earn master’s degrees. The online format at UTA provided them with the best option.
“We like how we take a class, have a week off, and then we take the next class,” Ashley said. “It’s more at our pace and more convenient for my life. I don’t want to feel rushed or stressed to get my FNP. I feel like there’s no rush in life right now.”
Kayla agrees the flexibility of the online format is extremely important, especially considering she and her sister love to take trips together at their leisure.
“When I called UTA, an adviser called me back within five minutes,” Kayla said. “It was very fast, which I liked. She answered all of my questions and made me feel comfortable. She explained the program and explained to me how it would go.
“She knew I wanted to enjoy my life, travel and work at the same time. The UTA program is big on flexibility for working adults. Being able to still live my life was really big when I was applying to schools. With other schools you had to change your schedule around for your classes.”
With their different work schedules, both Ashley and Kayla have managed to find about 10-20 hours per week to accommodate their schoolwork. They have completed the first two courses in the MSN FNP online program.
“It works perfect for me,” Ashley said. “I feel like I can still have a life, work full-time and go to school. To me, it would be impossible to work, wake up the next day or on a day off and go to class. I’d rather just open up a laptop and go to class. It’s just easier for my work schedule and much more convenient.
“I usually get work done on my off days at two or three in the morning, when I’m up and by myself. No one is distracting me,” Ashley said.
Kayla also takes time to work on her school work when she’s not at the hospital.
“As soon as I wake up on my off days, I log into Blackboard and do my next assignment and then space it out through the day,” Kayla said.
Although they are in the very early stages of the master’s program, the Johnson sisters have already experienced plenty of its benefits.
“The first two classes brought insight when I did research on certain topics that pertain to my unit and what we deal with every day,” Ashley said. “I learned good information about the equipment we use. I’ve gone back and told my co-workers what I have studied and learned. I like that aspect of it.”
Kayla has enjoyed the perspectives on nursing she has been exposed to through just two courses.
“I really enjoyed NURS 5327: Exploration of Science and Theories for Nursing,” she said. “It gave me better insight into the way people think, because we had to communicate with people on different discussion boards and respond to different people. The topics were pretty interesting.
“It was nice to talk to people from different backgrounds in nursing and different units to hear how they structure their nursing assignments. It was interesting to talk to people from all over the U.S.A. and get some different perspectives.”
Both of the Johnson sisters are excited to move on to the next round of courses together. Having one another in the same program and same courses helps them both remain diligent.
“We’re each other’s study buddies,” Kayla said. “We keep each other on our toes, ‘Did you turn that assignment in? Did you look on the syllabus?’ We make sure we are both on track. We were even like that when we were studying for our bachelor’s degrees. We took the same exact classes together and made sure we were in the same clinicals, just so we knew we had each other’s back. That’s been really helpful.”
Enjoying the Ride
The Johnsons know they’ll need some on-the-job experience after they complete the MSN FNP online program.
Ashley and Kayla will play it by ear when graduation gets closer, but they are very happy with their current jobs and making their coworkers and patients see double for at least a couple more years.
“I always knew I wanted to do labor and delivery since I was in high school,” Kayla said. “When I was actually offered my dream job, it was everything I wanted. I still love doing it to this day.”
The sisters said that the MSN FNP program also allows them to network with other medical professionals, which could become very valuable for them later in their careers.
“As far as networking, the MSN will really open up some doors for us,” Kayla said. “We know that opening our own clinic is a part of our long term goals. Just talking to different nurse practitioners and some of my friends who already have their FNP degrees really gets us excited for the future.”
Until then, Ashley and Kayla will continue to work, study, and take lots of trips together.
Learn more about the UTA online Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner program.
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