Legislation filed in Florida this year could make a difference in the lives of numerous Floridians who find themselves in situations similar to the one I have been in — with a strong desire to further my education and advance my career, but without the time or ability to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar school and follow a structured course schedule.
Senate Bill 1284 and House Bill 823 can open up doors for Floridians, by expanding access to the Florida Postsecondary Student Assistance Grant to students who need more flexible education options to achieve their goals — including nurses like myself.
All my life, I had a vision that I would become a nurse. My family always took care of their own, with multiple generations living under the same roof, which inspired my passion for caring for others. As soon as I graduated high school, I attended nursing school and began my nursing journey after receiving my associate degree in 1989.
Over the next two decades, I thoroughly enjoyed my career and helping others, but I had a strong desire to go back to school, to fulfill my love of learning and gain more knowledge so I could not only better serve patients, but my fellow nurses as well. However, it can be extremely intimidating to go back to a traditional school setting after you have been out for so long, especially when you are working full time. Thankfully, I found a wonderful online program through Western Governors University (WGU) that made it not only possible, but enjoyable to pursue higher education.
WGU, with its unique competency-based program, provided me with a flexible schedule that allowed me to advance at my own pace and, because of my existing knowledge and experience, actually finish the program faster. The course mentors kept me motivated to complete the bachelor’s in nursing program. In fact, I had such a great experience, I decided I wanted to pursue a master’s in nursing education through WGU, so I could help train and serve as a mentor to the next generation of nurses. Thanks to this degree, I am now the director of education and professional practice at a local hospital, helping to ensure nurses are well-trained to give provide the best care possible.
Without the opportunity to attend WGU, I would not have had the ability to earn my advanced degrees, hold leadership positions, and train as many new nurses as I proudly have. If I had only had the option to pack up and go to campus every day to attend class, I would not have been able to do so while working full time and raising a family. Without access to this flexible online program, I would not be where I am today and be able to serve as a mentor for countless nurses over the last decade.
I hope that by sharing my personal experience, lawmakers will better understand why the legislation being considered this session is so important — so we can ensure all Floridians have this same opportunity to earn a degree from the institution that best fits their needs. I believe this could help encourage more individuals to pursue nursing, which is something we desperately need in every community throughout our state.
I strongly urge the Legislature to pass SB 1284 and HB 823.
Carol Milliken, DNP RN CEN CCRN CLSSBB, is a nurse in Jupiter.