Sean Nolan had never imagined a career in healthcare. With a degree in police administration, he had worked in mall security for 15 years, rising to director of security for Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor Center. And after watching his mother endure several long hospitalizations and complications following a series of accidents, he had soured on the medical profession altogether.
But then in June 2010, he was laid off from his job. As he considered what to do next, he thought again about his mother’s experience before her death in 2002, and “it was like a light bulb switched on,” he said. “It’s traumatic when you see a parent go through that. But then I realized how much I could be a help to other families because I’ve been in their shoes.”
Drawn by Bellarmine’s great reputation in nursing education, he discovered the accelerated second degree nursing program, which allows students to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 12 months. After completing some prerequisites, he enrolled in May 2012 and graduated a year later, almost three years to the day he was laid off. He’s now a registered nurse in the medical intensive care unit at University of Louisville Hospital.
“I like it so much better. It’s what I’ve always wanted out of a career – to help other people. I know that’s kind of a cliché thing to say, but that is truly why I wanted to do this. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
One factor that helped Mr. Nolan make that decision was a scholarship he received through the New Careers in Nursing program, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and supported by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. He was a perfect candidate for the program, which is intended to support students who are traditionally underrepresented in nursing, such as men and racial minorities, who are making a career switch.
Since 2008, the NCIN program has distributed 3,117 scholarships of $10,000 each to students at 125 schools of nursing across the country. Bellarmine received its first award in 2009, for students who began the accelerated nursing program in May 2010. Its most recent award, $100,000 that was announced last summer, will allow Bellarmine to grant 10 scholarships to students in the May 2014 cohort. Altogether, Bellarmine has received $360,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The grant money has increased awareness of Bellarmine’s accelerated second degree nursing program, said senior graduate admission officer Julie Armstrong-Binnix, who recruits for the program. “It is also a solid endorsement of the nursing program’s commitment to recruiting and retaining underrepresented groups into the profession,” she said. Applicants are attracted by the scholarship opportunity, but also by the consistent faculty support and the connection to alumni of the NCIN program.
“I’m not going to kid you – money is always a factor,” said Mr. Nolan, who was able to cover about 80 percent of his tuition costs with the NCIN award and a scholarship from University Hospital.
Of course, he still had to complete all the course work. Mr. Nolan, who will be 40 this year and is married with children, acknowledged that the accelerated nursing program was a lot to take on, but knowing that he would earn his degree in just one year made it worth the sacrifices.
“The timing just worked out beautifully. It couldn’t have been better,” he said. “I feel like I’m supposed to be doing this.”
Click here for more information on Bellarmine’s Accelerated Second Degree program in nursing. You must have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher in any discipline from a regionally accredited college or university.
Carla Carlton | firstname.lastname@example.org