Jennifer Coarr Conquers Fear of Online Learning, Graduates From RN to BSN Program

Jennifer Coarr had to learn to become a student again when she enrolled in the online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at the University of South Carolina Aiken (UofSC Aiken).

“It was intimidating as heck,” she said. “I am soon to be 54 years old. That’s not how we did college in my day. I use computers at work. I am internet-savvy, but I had no idea how all of this went.”

With the guidance of the UofSC Aiken faculty and staff, Coarr adapted, persevered and graduated in May 2021.

“The instructors were outstanding,” she said. “Their feedback was terrific. They held my hand on how to maneuver Blackboard and post items. At first, I held my breath on every assignment, making sure I had done it right. I got better as I progressed.”

The online format helped Coarr maintain her full-time job as a medical case manager for Tethys Health Ventures in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She and her husband, Frank, have two grown sons — Zachary (28) and Chase (21).

“My boss knew I was doing the degree,” she said. “I explained that I might get into a crunch situation and need a day off. I used a handful of days over the two years I was in the program to give myself a cushion, but it was very manageable. The flexibility is nice.”

Coarr, who has worked for Tethys for the last 12 years, wanted a bachelor’s degree to solidify her position and prepare for future endeavors.

“My company has grown a lot,” she said. “I work on the business side of healthcare. As we grow, I want to go ahead and gain those additional management types of positions. I wanted to make sure I had the credentials to support the work that I am doing.”

Back in the Saddle

Coarr grew up in south central Pennsylvania. She enrolled in college as a nursing major, but instead graduated from Radford University with a bachelor’s degree in business management administration in 1989.

“I got out of college, got a job and transferred to New Jersey,” she said. “The company went under. I needed a job that would provide for me and my family, so I went back to school for nursing and got my associate degree. I have been in nursing ever since.”

However, Coarr enrolled at UofSC Aiken 22 years after graduating with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from Cumberland County College in 1997. Most of her credits transferred into the online RN to BSN program.

“I was looking for a school with accreditation that would allow me to work full time and do the degree remotely,” she said. “My grades from my first bachelor’s degree were less than perfect. I didn’t want to be held to that standard for something that was more than 30 years ago.

“UofSC Aiken was very understanding, which I appreciated. I set off to show them that my children were all grown. I have a wonderful marriage. And my job is terrific. Now, I have the right mindset to be able to do a good job.”

The Leadership & Management course, taught by Dr. Katie A. Chargualaf, was Coarr’s favorite in the online RN to BSN program curriculum.

“It excited me,” she said. “There was supposed to be a clinical component, and I wasn’t able to connect with a facility to do that since I don’t work in a hospital. She had an alternative program for those of us where it wouldn’t work. Her feedback was outstanding and timely. I loved it.”

Anxiety Free

Coarr capped off her RN to BSN experience by walking in the commencement ceremony in Aiken and celebrating the accomplishment with her loved ones.

“I made a particular point to get down there for graduation day,” she said. “I met two of my online classmates. I recently went up to Pennsylvania and saw my folks. I showed them my transcript and GPA.

“My husband and grown children are extremely supportive and cheerleaders for me. I had great support all the way around.”

The return to higher education went so well for Coarr that she will begin a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management program at another university in August, which wouldn’t be possible without the BSN.

“If you are going anywhere looking at an institution that has Magnet status, they want you to have that bachelor’s degree,” she said. “The directive from the Institute of Medicine was to have 80% of nurses to have a bachelor’s by 2020. I was close.”

Although Coarr was apprehensive about learning online, she is happy to have taken the leap into digital learning. She encourages other students considering the program to do it with confidence.

“A lot of my classmates had not been out of school very long,” she said. “As a returning learner coming back, I was intimidated. Try not to be intimidated.

“Every one of the instructors I had was there to lend a hand. They held my hand all the way through. It made it less scary.”

For Coarr, the degree has also enhanced her skills as a veteran healthcare professional while preparing her for the next leg of her education journey.

“It brought out a professional side of me that I was not aware of,” she said. “I had no background in the research, so it really brought me up to speed with that aspect. It made me feel much more able to support my positions as I am discussing things at work. It’s terrific.”

Learn more about UofSC Aiken’s online RN to BSN program.

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