Life Experience Adds to Nursing Student’s Credentials

Posted: March 20, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Leah Kerkman Fogarty

Anne Shaw
Anne Shaw

With her ashy blonde hair trimmed into a neat bob and funky red-framed eyeglasses, Anne Shaw doesn’t look like the typical undergraduate nursing student. But this mother of four with 38 years as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) brings a lot of life experience to the table.

Shaw, 57, enrolled in the LPN-to-BSN track in the College of Health and Human Services’ School of Nursing in the fall of 2007. She’s set to graduate this spring. “It’s been a long journey in nursing,” she says.

For the past 10 years of her nursing career, Shaw served in the clinic at an elementary school, kindergarten through third grade.

“I had the experience, and many times I was doing the job” of a registered nurse, says Shaw. “But I just didn’t have that piece of paper. I just had to have that degree. It was a box I had to check,” Shaw says of her re-enrollment in school. “I just felt like the doors were not open to me.”

Shaw had been continuing her studies at a local two-year institution for a decade before she applied to the Mason program. She took classes part time, accumulating “three credits here and there.” But once she was accepted into Mason’s LPN-to-BSN program, she quit her job and devoted herself to her studies full time.

As a nontraditional student, Shaw has become a mentor to her younger classmates, says Carol Urban, assistant dean of the undergraduate division in the School of Nursing.

“She very much became an informal leader in the classroom,” says Urban.

Jammie Wallis, a friend and fellow senior in the LPN-to-BSN track, speaks highly of her classmate.

Anne Shaw and Jammie Wallis
Shaw with classmate Jammie Wallis in one of the labs.
Creative Services photos

“I think she’s helped me stay focused and put things into perspective,” Wallis says. “I can call her for anything. She’s been a mentor to me.”

But Shaw modestly says, “We help each other through the program. I feel like Jammie’s mentored me more than I’ve mentored her.”

Shaw says the curriculum is demanding, especially since she isn’t used to the rigors of full-time schooling.

“These girls can go home at 8 p.m. and study, but my day ends kind of early because I’m beat! So it’s been challenging.”

Urban, who had Shaw in her pharmacology class, recalls when Shaw was working in the schools as an LPN over the holiday break. Shaw e-mailed the professor after she identified a boy who she feared was being overmedicated. Shaw spoke with the boy’s parents about her concerns and the student was subsequently put on a different treatment path.

“It’s what we always hope our students will do,” says Urban. “Intervene on the behalf of their patients to look out for their best interests.”

Shaw hopes to go back to community nursing after graduation.

“Making an impact on children and even making the school clinic a place where children can come, that’s important for me.”

Does she have any regrets about the path she’s taken? “I’d do it earlier,” she says, laughing. “But I am doing it. And I know I’ll never be sorry for that.”

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