At a time when many people traditionally would have been considering retirement options, Carolyn Ring turned to SPC for a career-enhancing bachelor’s degree.
Ring, then in her late 50s, already had a demanding full-time job that she loved and didn’t want to give up. But a downsizing by her employer started her thinking about a new possibility: more education.
She earned her associate degree in nursing in 1973 and enjoyed a successful nursing career for more than 30 years.
“I thought my experience would carry me through (to retirement),” Ring said. “But two years ago my employer went through a downsizing; I wasn’t affected, but I realized that if I needed to apply for a nursing job in my community, I would need at least a bachelor’s degree.
“I needed to prepare for my future.”
Ring’s daughter found the RN to BSN program at SPC, about 100 miles from Ring’s home in Mount Dora.
“SPC was relatively close, it wasn’t expensive, and it appeared to have excellent professors,” Ring said. “I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Ring set a goal of graduating before her 60th birthday. She found that SPC’s online program would allow her to fit her class work around her busy at-home career as a high-risk pregnancy nurse specialist for a major health insurance company.
“The program was awesome,” she said. “I had some doubts about the online part of it, but the quality was superb and the professors were very responsive. I learned a great deal that I could take forward in my career.”
The road wasn’t always smooth, especially in the beginning. Ring wasn’t sure she could keep up with younger classmates, and the pressure of full-time work plus full-time school was sometimes trying. Still, she managed to get excellent grades and graduated on time.
“Working full-time and going to school full-time was a challenge, and I wanted to get out of it everything I possibly could,” she said. “It took a lot of commitment – if you leave work tired, you’ve got to be committed and passionate about it to move successfully from one computer to another.
“There was some crying and feelings of being overwhelmed at times, but you get through that,” she said.
Ring’s accomplishments were not lost on those who manage SPC’s nursing program.
“We are very proud of Carolyn, and the changes to her practice, which resulted from her completing her bachelor’s degree at St. Petersburg College,” said Jean Wortock, Dean of SPC’s College of Nursing.
Ring graduated in December – without ever setting foot on an SPC campus. At graduation, Ring wore the honor cords for the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.
Though her 60th birthday is nearing, Ring isn’t thinking about retiring. She’s thinking of pursuing a certificate in Health Care Informatics at SPC, and then perhaps a master’s degree in that field. Earning her bachelor’s degree not only gave her valuable training, she believes it also helped to sharpen a number of valuable skills.
“Besides the career options it has given me, I think it also is a stepping stone to get into Health Care Informatics,” she said. “It definitely sharpened my mental and communications skills. Many people say this is too old an age to go back to school; if you say that, maybe you are. But maybe you need to do some things that will help you remain young.”
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