Sara Pursues Her RN to BSN Degree


Sara Ballard, RN to BSN student

A Calling to a Nursing Career

When you commit to the nursing profession, you’re choosing a strong and reliable career pathway. The health care field continues to grow and earning potential for qualified nurses is on the rise. The practical reasons to pursue a nursing career are evident, but many nurses will tell you that their career was much deeper than a choice—it was a calling.

Sara Ballard ’24, a student in our RN to BSN program, is among the many nurses who describe a powerful connection to the nursing profession. In her early twenties, Sara landed a position as a Health Unit Coordinator at Wentworth Douglass Hospital (WDH) in Dover, New Hampshire. While this entry-level role could seem like just a “job” to many, for Sara this position was rich with opportunity. She was energized by the health care working environment and started to seriously consider a future career in the field.

Working alongside nurses and witnessing the care they provided was inspiring. They made me want to become a nurse and follow their example.

Earning her Associate in Nursing

When Sara learned that the local Red Cross offers a Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA) program, signing up and taking that initial step toward her nursing career goal was natural. Through this program, Sara learned basic nursing skills, gained experience in patient care, and built the foundation necessary for more advanced roles.

Sara was able to put her LNA training into practice at WDH and was eager to take her nursing education to the next level by continuing into a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program. By earning an LPN credential, Sara would receive rigorous formal training and be able to widen the scope of her nursing duties, providing more in-depth and hands on patient care.

Sara continued to work at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital throughout her education. She felt that the organization was equally invested in her career growth and she enjoyed the increasing responsibility that came with advancing her education. With the continued support of her WDH community, she enrolled at Great Bay Community College in their Associate Degree in Nursing program, a foundation for an RN license. Just as Sara was about to celebrate a decade of service at WDH, she became an RN in 2009. This helped qualify Sara for more intensive roles and a few years later, Sara took on a new position as a Radiation Oncology Nurse at the Seacoast Cancer Center at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital.

Meeting Evolving Health Care Needs

Although this work was incredibly rewarding on its own merits, by the mid-2000s the health care workforce priorities were evolving and there were great implications for the nursing profession. As more hospitals sought to achieve Magnet® Recognition (a distinction that serves as the gold standard of quality nursing), the workforce demanded nurses with advanced education and training, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing. Ever the lifelong learner, Sara welcomed the opportunity to grow.

As Sara began her search for a bachelor’s degree program, there were dozens of high-quality and affordable choices across the country; however, it was important to her to continue her education within her community. Sara felt strongly about applying to a local college or university and narrowed her search to online nursing programs in New Hampshire.

An Affordable RN to BSN Pathway

She soon discovered Granite State College and its RN to BSN program. She learned that her employer had an affiliation with Granite State College that offers tuition cost savings to eligible employees, plus a Nursing Pathway with the Community Colleges that allowed her to transfer in her associate degree and maximize her previous learning.

As a wife and mother of three, the decision to enter into the RN to BSN program was not one she took lightly. She didn’t want to sacrifice time with her family or her commitment to her role at Wentworth Douglass Hospital. Nonetheless, she persevered.

There is never a “perfect” time to go back to school, but at Granite State College, the online and hybrid formats allow flexibility for working nurses, which was extremely important to me.

Help From Her Academic Advisor

Once Sara applied, she was paired with Mary Jane, a helpful academic advisor who checked in with her and offered assistance with selecting her initial classes. Mary Jane shared: “Sara had a clear vision of her goals. I was glad to help her chart the course forward.”

When the term started, she began to develop new competencies that helped her grow as a nurse.

Through what I was learning in my courses, my communication skills have improved. These lessons help me identify critical information quickly and convey it in a clear and concise manner, which is so important in patient care.

Sara’s Resilience

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to everyone, but especially to working nurses like Sara.

The nursing field is resilient and much of that comes from our dedication to lifelong learning. Nurses are responding daily to change and innovation, which has been critical throughout the pandemic.

Sara aspires to complete her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree by 2024—an ambitious goal—and she is grateful to the support of her family, employers, and flexibility of the Granite State College nursing program, which collectively put this goal within reach.

Nursing opportunities are endless, and I want to be prepared to enter into any opportunity that arises without limitations due to education. Obtaining my bachelor’s degree is the best way to support my career goals and the online format allows great flexibility for working nurses.


Online Degree Programs for Working Nurses: Download our guide!