UF Online RN to BSN Nursing Alum Continues to Further Her Education

The phrase “not all heroes wear capes, some wear scrubs” is one that Amelia Nichols Alava may hear more than once as a nurse at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. At the hospital, Amelia serves as a clinical leader for the Burn Center, which specializes in helping post-surgical burn patients.

Outside of her job, Amelia is a wife, mother of three, and a student. With a passion for learning, Amelia decided to continue her education through UF Online’s RN to BSN program. As one of the first nursing students to graduate from this online pathway to a University of Florida BSN degree in 2016, Amelia continues to persevere and inspire others. Soon she will graduate with her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from UF.

Aiding her Future with UF Online

Amelia had always dreamed of graduating from UF. In fact, she began attending the university to study pre-med after she graduated high school. After taking some time away from school to focus on her family, Amelia then decided to enroll in Santa Fe College’s RN program.

Once Amelia had her RN degree in hand, she started working at UF Health Shands Hospital. While furthering her education was important to her, Amelia’s position as a hospital nurse also required her to obtain her bachelor’s degree within two years of her start date. This is a common educational requirement for nurses working at most medical hospitals across the United States. Due to Amelia’s busy schedule, attending classes in person was impossible. That’s when she came across a new UF program being offered online. It allowed her to earn her RN to BSN degree and fulfill her dream of graduating as a Gator.

“I really like the flexibility [UF Online] allowed me to have with my schedule,” Amelia said. “As a mother of three, I was very busy with my children’s activities, tending to family obligations, and having a full-time job. The online program allowed me to access the lectures and assignments at times I was able to – like in the evenings, late nights, or on the weekends.”

An Online Program Designed for Working Nurses

While Amelia balanced work and her family, she was also focused on doing her best in her classes. As an experienced nurse, Amelia wasn’t sure what to expect from an online version of the program. The UF Online RN to BSN major requires students to take two clinical courses: Health Assessment and Public Health.

One of these courses was taught by Dr. Sally Bethart, a UF Nursing instructor. While Amelia admits she wasn’t initially interested in the public health aspect of the course, she thoroughly enjoyed the projects and lessons she learned through the course due to Dr. Bethart’s enthusiasm.

Even though all their communication was done online, Dr. Bethart remembers how easy it was to form a connection with Amelia. Based on the conversations they had over email and through class discussions, Dr. Bethart recalled that Amelia “demonstrated she was an engaged student with visions of leadership.” Amelia’s community project for the course also impressed Dr. Bethart. “She collaborated with the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Smoking Cessation Project to bring tobacco cessation to patients within UF Health Shands Hospital,” Dr. Bethart said. “I am excited to see how Amelia implements her DNP. She will be a game-changer!”

Did you know?

According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 46% of employers require new nursing hires to have a bachelor’s degree. The survey also showed that 88% of employers prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses over nurses who have only earned an RN degree.1

Amelia was impressed with how she was taking the same courses as her residential peers. “The fact that you can do a physical assessment online, and if you’re a nurse, you are already doing assessments at the bedside.” She went on to say that “applying this to technology and doing it over a computer is amazing.”

Amelia also was able to reconnect with an old friend during her time in the RN to BSN program. Her academic advisor at the College of Nursing, Ken Foote, remembers first meeting Amelia when they worked together at a local Gainesville retail outlet when they were younger. Ironically, the two reconnected when Amelia approached him about applying to the RN to BSN program. “I was thrilled to be able to help guide her through the process of applying and then, once she was admitted, advise her through the program,” Ken remarked. “I consider it to have been a privilege to have been part of her journey. Both as her advisor and friend.”

Leading as an Inspiration for her Loved Ones

There was no stopping Amelia from continuing her education after earning her BSN. She was accepted into UF’s graduate DNP program, which is also taught online. Even as Amelia nears the end of her DNP, she still considers continuing her studies.

“I tell myself that I’m done with my education, but who knows,” she said, “I might go for my Ph.D.!” With her DNP degree, Amelia plans to continue her leadership role. “I wouldn’t have really looked at a clinical leadership position without the experiences that I had with UF Online.” The online RN to BSN program allowed Amelia to look further into the different avenues in nursing that she can pursue. “I was actually able to get out of my little niche and look at other options for me,” she said.

Besides being a wonderful role model for her three children, Amelia has also inspired her husband to continue his education and pursue a career in the nursing field. “This was such a great experience for me since I was able to do everything online from the RN to BSN to the DNP program. I’m able to work while my husband is going to school as well.” Amelia noted her husband is planning on pursuing his BSN through UF Online as well. “He’s following the same track because he knows if I can do it, he can do it. We understand what it takes.”

Amelia, now 45 years old, serves as another example of a determined Gator following their dreams and making those dreams a reality. Not only is she a hero to her patients, but she is also a hero to her family. “I like to say I’m not your traditional student since I came into this at an older age, but if I can do it, you can too,” Amelia stated. “You just have to make sure you set your goals and go for it.”

As the number of RN’s earning their BSN degree continues to grow, now is the time to finish what you’ve started. The RN to BSN degree from the UF College of Nursing offered via UF Online accepts new applicants every spring semester. With this program, you’ll set yourself up for leadership opportunities in the nursing field. Interested in learning more about this major? Visit the UF Online degrees page .

Notes: 1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2018). Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses.