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Changing Careers, Changing Lives: Alternate-Entry Program Opens Doors to Nursing Novices

Posted: Nov. 26, 2013

The Alternate Entry Master of Science in Nursing (AE-MSN) program began in 1990 and was designed to help people holding baccalaureate or graduate degrees in other disciplines become nurses. Each class is a mosaic of ages, backgrounds and races. Whether recent graduates or workforce veterans, the students have one thing in common: They want to become a nurse. Here two students discuss making this life-changing decision.

Jason Morris

Jason Morris

Shortly after graduating from Baylor University with a business degree, Jason Morris and his wife fulfilled a mutual desire to live abroad by moving to China to be teachers and missionaries. Jason used his background in information systems to find work with an export company, and the couple believed they had found their niche.

Eight years and two children later, they were in Austin visiting family, when they noticed their six-year-old daughter Adah seemed listless. They took her to a doctor, thinking she had picked up a flu bug, but when the blood work came back, they were devastated to learn she had acute myeloid leukemia, a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The couple changed plans immediately, scrapping their return to China.

During the next several months of treatment, including a bone marrow transplant, Jason observed the interaction of hospital nurses with his family. He was amazed at the care they consistently delivered and was curious what a career in nursing entailed.

“The combination of skill and empathy I witnessed is what first attracted me, plus knowing they were doing something that mattered,” he said. “I basically interviewed every nurse there to get their perspective on the job: what they liked, what they didn’t.”

Jason began taking science courses his business degree hadn’t required, but nursing would. In 2012 Adah was recovering, and Jason enrolled in the School of Nursing’s AE-MSN program. After a year, he’s sure he made the right choice. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but when you find something you love, you commit, and it becomes the easiest thing in the world.”

After graduating in May 2015, he plans to practice in pediatric hematology oncology and eventually obtain a nurse practitioner degree. The family may return to China to care for orphans needing life-saving medical attention or hospice care.

“The program has enabled me to flourish,” he said. “I’d say to anyone considering nursing school, that even though it might be the hardest decision you ever make, if it’s the right one, it will be a great journey.”

Adetoun Obadofin

Adetoun Obadofin

Adetoun Obadofin began her journey to a nursing career after completing a degree in microbiology in Nigeria. While working in a bank, she heard about an opportunity to volunteer for UNICEF’s “Operation Kick Polio Out of Africa,” which aims to vaccinate all children against the devastating disease.

“Vaccinating children is critical, but often their parents resisted, and it was necessary to educate them about the vaccine,” said Adetoun. “The nurses on the team were so skilled at this and, as I observed them, I became more interested in what they did.”

Although her work with the UNICEF health-care teams fired Adetoun’s imagination about nursing, the fact that the man who would soon become her husband had been stricken with childhood polio added to her desire to learn how to care for a loved one’s disability.

“I wanted to become a nurse, but nursing as a profession is more advanced in the United States than it is in Nigeria. Getting a master’s degree in nursing there is nearly impossible,” she added.

After her marriage, she and her husband moved to America to continue his treatment and find a school for her. Through family, Adetoun learned about the AE-MSN program at the School of Nursing. Because of her science background, she needed only a few prerequisites and was able to begin classes in summer 2011. As part of her coursework, she is serving the refugee population in Austin.

“I chose this group because of our shared immigrant experiences: adjusting to a new place with a different culture, health-care system and infrastructure,” she said.

Adetoun is specializing in public health and wants to work with underserved people, helping them access available resources and providing preventative care. “The AE-MSN program helped me achieve the best of both worlds: to become a nurse and work in public health,” Adetoun said. “Now I’ll be able to serve the community and make a difference.”