Fewer than 2 percent of teen moms graduate college by age 30, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Louetta Germundson is proud to be among that 2 percent.
Germundson became a mother at 17 years of age, forcing her to grow up quickly. It also helped steer her toward a nursing career.
"I had a nurse through a program in the Oklahoma State Department of Health called Children First," she said. "She was amazing. I had a good relationship with that nurse. I used to tell her, 'Oh my gosh, you have the coolest job. I would love to do that someday.' My grandmother was also an LPN [Licensed Practical Nurse]. I had different nurses in my life who influenced what I wanted to do."
Germundson, who now works as a public health nurse in Garfield County, earned an associate degree to get started in nursing. After gaining some valuable work experience, she returned to school, graduating from Northeastern State University's online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in May 2018. She is the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree.
"I knew without having a degree of some sort that I would be making minimum wage," she said. "I looked at the two-year route versus the four-year route. Back then, it seemed smarter to go ahead and do the two-year route and make the four-year degree a long-term goal. I took five years off, and then I went back and started."
Even though Germundson considered enrolling at NSU at the same time as her friend and former co-worker, Amber Richards, she was a new mother again and needed a bit of a nudge. Enter NSU Nursing Program Chair Dr. Diana Mashburn.
"I talked to Dr. Mashburn when I inquired about the program with Amber and said, 'I'm definitely interested, but right now is not a good time,'" Germundson said. "The next spring, Dr. Mashburn contacted me on her own to follow up.
"She said, 'Louetta, remember when we talked last year? Are you still interested? Where are you with your goals?' By the time I got off the phone, I was enrolled. I felt like that follow-up was that push that I needed. She took the initiative to contact me, which I thought was amazing. It made me feel good about my decision to go to NSU. I thought, 'These people care.'"
With the example Dr. Mashburn set for the program, Germundson wasn't surprised to also receive support from the rest of the NSU faculty during her time in the program.
"My instructors were so understanding," she said. "They were just an email or phone call away. There were a lot of times where I contacted them and said, 'Hey, I've got this going on.' They were always responsive and very helpful."
The fully online format allowed Germundson to balance work, school and family time with her husband, Levi, and sons Braden (11) and Blake (4).
"Online was an excellent option," she said. "I admit that if I worked 12-hour shifts and fewer days per week, it would have been even more fabulous. Instead, I work Monday through Friday from 8 to 5. It was a little bit tricky but definitely doable. I had to be really on top of my game with scheduling."
One of Germundson's favorite courses in the online program was NURS 4115: Community Health Nursing.
"There was a project we did in that course that involved assessing a community and figuring out an area we could assist in improving," she said. "We had to come up with a plan. Then, we presented that plan. My group surveyed a daycare.
"We noticed some hygiene practices were subpar, so we provided education to the staff about the way communicable diseases can spread and how handwashing can prevent that. We made a PowerPoint and did a presentation that was a lot of fun."
Germundson also thoroughly enjoyed NURS 4214: Nursing Leadership and Management.
"We studied different management styles," she said. "It made me see what type of leader I wanted to be. All of the courses that I had from that point forward all felt like I was falling back on the material we covered in that class. It applied a lot to something that I could use in the real world."
Germundson said the entire online RN to BSN curriculum was applicable to her career.
"In all of the classes, there's something that I have carried forward," she said. "The application of research and evidence-based practice is the golden difference between being a two-year RN and a four-year RN. I see where I am applying that logic and those principles to my practice as an RN, which enhances the care I provide and improves health outcomes for my patients."
Now that Germundson has a bachelor's degree, she wants to take some time off and then enter a master's degree program to become a nurse practitioner and specialize in family practice.
"I had a love/hate relationship with the group work that we had in the RN to BSN program," she said. "I liked it because you had someone to help you. There were also times when I got in groups where some people did not pull as much weight as others. I feel like, because I was put in those situations, I had to find leadership qualities that I didn't even know I had."
Germundson, who was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nurses prior to graduation, also had a chance to circle back to Dr. Mashburn at the pinning ceremony.
"Dr. Mashburn presented me with a special award known as the Edna Chamberlain Award," she said. "This award is for academic excellence and for exhibiting traits similar to Florence Nightingale. To be mentioned in the same sentence as Florence Nightingale, a great pioneer of modern nursing practice, feels incredible! Receiving this award topped off my amazing experiences at NSU."
Now a graduate, Germundson is grateful for the support she received from everybody in her circle while completing the program.
"My family and friends are so excited," she said. "My employer was stoked about me going back to school. I had positive feedback from fellow employees and leadership about my decision and the ways that they've seen me grow."
Germundson believes NSU's online RN to BSN program is doable for any nurse proficient in time management.
"You should be prepared to schedule your time and devote time every day, if you can, to class," she said. "Don't try to lump everything into one or two days a week. Pace yourself. Having gone through the program, I feel like you get some serious bang for your buck. It's very affordable and has shaped my practice quite a bit. I got a lot out of it."
Learn more about the NSU online RN to BSN program.
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