Natalie Hurley Juggles Work, Motherhood, School While Earning Degree

Becoming a new mother and a college graduate happened in quick succession for Natalie Hurley.

She returned to work from maternity leave shortly before graduating from the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the University of South Carolina Aiken (UofSC Aiken) in December 2020.

“I had been planning to go back to school, but I didn’t know when I would be able to do it,” she said. “I knew that I was going to eventually need my bachelor’s degree to go into management or get an advanced degree.

“I decided I was going to get started and take one or two classes at a time. I took the summers off and took my time throughout the program — there was no rush.”

Hurley and her husband, Brad, now have a son named Nolan. She works full time as a registered nurse in the cardiac procedural recovery unity at Trident Medical Center in Summerville, South Carolina. The program’s online format helped her manage schoolwork around her fluctuating schedule.

“I was working overtime before I had my baby,” she said. “I was able to do my classes late at night or in the early morning when I couldn’t sleep. Even when I had down time at work, I could do something with my classes.

“I still did all of that while I was on maternity leave with a newborn. The program was pretty flexible. I was cranking out schoolwork at 3 a.m. when he couldn’t sleep.”

Changing Her Tune

Hurley grew up in the Summerville area and started college in 2007 at UofSC Aiken as a music education major after high school.

“My grandfather passed away from a traumatic experience in a hospital setting,” she said. “The nurses at the hospital were helpful, insightful and amazing. I decided that I wanted to change my major so I could be a nurse and help out the community.”

Though she started her UofSC Aiken journey years ago, Hurley actually graduated with an Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) from Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College in 2017. She then landed a job at Trident Medical Center, but came full circle by returning to UofSC Aiken the following year and enrolling in the online RN to BSN program.

“Since I was already familiar with UofSC Aiken, I decided to go ahead and do it,” she said. “I could utilize the information that I learned in the program in several different types of nursing. Even if you are not going to work in a hospital setting, you can apply the information anywhere.”

NURS A460: Leadership & Management was Hurley’s favorite course in the online RN to BSN curriculum, although she benefited from the information she gained in all of her courses.

“Management, in general, applies to what I am going to be utilizing with my bachelor’s degree,” she said. “It was beneficial to learn about how to manage people in a work setting. My boss is already talking about putting me in a management position and grooming me for that role.”

Keeping Pace

Hurley completed her bachelor’s journey by walking in a college commencement ceremony for the first time.

“I didn’t go to graduation for my ADN,” she said. “I went to the pinning ceremony, which I felt like was bigger for me. Since it’s my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to go to the graduation ceremony.”

As Hurley steadily worked toward the bachelor’s degree, she kept word of her BSN pursuit mostly to herself.

“I didn’t tell anybody I was going back to school,” she said. “My family and friends are excited I went back and graduated. I kept it under wraps until I was almost finished.”

Hurley — who enjoys hiking, running and going to the beach in her free time — said that the UofSC Aiken faculty helped her succeed in the program in and out of the virtual classroom.
“I had complications with my pregnancy and had to have a last-minute C-section,” she said. “I emailed my professors and let them know what was going on. They were very flexible with me in turning in my assignments.

“They were amazing. I didn’t think I was going to be able to graduate in December because I was late applying. I emailed the dean of nursing, who helped me apply late and graduate on time. It’s important to communicate with your professors.”

Now that Hurley has a bachelor’s degree and a newborn, she is keeping her career options open.

“I don’t know what I want to do yet, but I will probably lean toward management,” she said. “For sure, this degree will open up more opportunities for me. I got everything I wanted out of the program.”

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

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