By her own admission, Victoria England is a nurse geek.
"I read this book series by Helen Wells about a nurse named Cherry Ames. It was written in the 1930s and '40s," England said. "When I was young in my nursing career, I saw Dr. Elizabeth Poster, Past Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at UTA, do a talk called 'From Cherry Ames to Nursing Today.' Cherry was this wonderfully righteous nurse who put patients at the center of all she did. Why would you not want to be a nurse?"
That passion for nursing has only intensified through the years for England. She is the Director of Nurse Excellence and the Magnet Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and was recently promoted to assistant chief nursing officer (ACNO of Nurse Excellence).
However, it was after she had already earned a business-related bachelor's degree and a Master of Business Administration that she went back to earn an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington. She graduated in 2010.
"I was working at Children's Medical Center in ambulatory at the time," England said. "I had an associate degree in nursing. I thought, 'I don't need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, I have enough degrees.'"
Working in the ambulatory world, England believed that having an MBA would be all she needed to support the work she was doing as the manager of a busy clinic. But despite having an advanced business degree, she was encouraged by her nurse leaders to return to higher education for a BSN.
"Some of the nursing leaders of the Dallas/Fort Worth area were the ones really who said, 'Victoria, you've got to do this,'" England said. "The expectations of nursing leaders are high in such a competitive market for jobs, with Magnet hospitals requiring a minimum of a BSN for nurse leaders. Here I was talking to new nurses about their career paths encouraging them to continue with their nursing education and talking to legislators about changing nursing and healthcare practices. I needed to practice what I preached and work towards a BSN. Everybody was very supportive."
We're No. 1!
England was part of the first group of students to complete the online RN to BSN program at UTA.
"It was absolutely amazing," she said. "I was really stressed over doing online, but it was such a smooth process. I jumped right in and took two courses. I would usually start my schoolwork about 10 p.m. It was wonderful. You could be in your slippers."
Because she was president of Texas Nurses Association District 4 when she enrolled in the UTA online RN to BSN program, England knew some of the nursing instructors.
"Lo and behold, Dr. Jacquie Michael was my holistic nurse instructor," England said. "Dr. Nancy Roper Willson was my government affairs instructor. It was cool seeing them when I'd click on to watch the lectures. As an adult learner, having that live looking, hearing and talking and online discussion boards, I did not miss being in the classroom at all."
Even as a seasoned veteran, England still had lessons to learn in the curriculum.
"Even though I had been a nurse for years, I learned so much about patients beyond my specialty in the holistic nursing class (NURS 3315: Holistic Health Assessment Across the Lifespan)," England said. "It really showed the whole person, the whole patient. I feel it changed my practice in truly understanding Â the needs when you are caring for someone who has progressed from a healthy person or when you have a patient with a chronic illness from birth through life."
NURS 3345: Role Transition to Professional Nursing was another course she especially enjoyed.
"The very first questions they ask were, 'What is your nursing philosophy? What's your vision for nursing?'" England said. "Nobody ever asked me that question. That was probably one of the easiest papers I ever wrote."
England became a big proponent of the UTA online nursing program after her positive experience.
"It's UTA," she said. "It's the University of Texas system. How could you not want to go there? I encourage all of my nurses looking to do an RN to BSN to go to UTA. The ease of being able to do those online courses to match your schedule from when you sign up, as long as you meet every requirement needed. There is no delay in time or that stressful waiting to hear."
England also likes the big-picture overview that comes with being an online student.
"It definitely gives you a nursing foundation," England said. "It's affordable. The coursework and online portion are so maneuverable. One of the best things about online learning is we were taking a class with others across the country, so it really gave some insight globally.
"Sometimes you feel like what's going on in your yard is only happening in your yard, when in actuality, it's a common theme. As a young nurse not looking at the global picture, it really builds some relationships and that camaraderie you get in all professions."
England is not finished with higher education. She is currently enrolled in an online Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
"Nurses are lifelong learners, and the foundation I received in my BSN from UTA has showed me we are never too old to learn," England said.
"As competitive as Dallas/Fort Worth is, with so many Magnet Accredited Hospitals, you cannot be in a leadership position without a bachelor's in nursing, this is also the entry level for most of the larger systems in our area. I encourage all of my nurses to get a BSN, if they do nothing else."
England is also still heavily involved in nursing organizations outside of her job.
"Legislatively, it's very important because we have a license we have to protect," she said. "I don't want others making decisions for my nursing practice. I just became president of DFW Great 100 Nurses -- what a wonderful honor to be selected by my peers for this award -- I think it's amazing to celebrate the work of nurses in the DFW area."
And as any nurse geek would, England spends quite a bit of her free time collecting nursing memorabilia.
"I have a very large nursing memorabilia collection," she said. "Nursing caps are my specialty since nurses no longer wear them and it is a symbol of nursing. After I met Elizabeth Poster, I donated a complete set of Cherry Ames nurse series to UTA in her name. Nursing is a noble profession and one of the most trusted professions, what better way to show were we came from these old story books to where nursing is going with the many nursing students at UTA."Learn more about the UTA online RN to BSN program.
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