With her passion for nursing running on empty, Emilee Ence returned to college to refuel and perhaps drive her career in a whole new direction.
“My perception of myself is I’m this old, crusty, grizzled nurse,” she said. “In a lot of ways, I lost my ‘shiny.’”
However, Ence now feels reinvigorated with the help of the Nevada State College Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program. She is on track to graduate in May 2018.
“What I’ve found from the discussions we have is you get perspectives from people like me, who have been nurses for 14 or 15 years and are just going to school, and from brand new grads who are just getting out of school with their RN with no clinicalEmilee is rediscovering her passion for nursingexperience whatsoever,” she said. “We have opportunities to learn from each other. It’s been nice to interact with people from all different realms of nursing practice, and to have the opportunity to be exposed to so many different viewpoints and experiences.”
The younger nurses have helped Ence regain some of the enthusiasm she had when she embarked on her career in healthcare after she graduated with an Associate of Nursing from the College of Southern Nevada in 2003. Ence has worked for Mountain View Hospital in Las Vegas for 14 years. She is a flow coordinator, similar to a charge nurse, in the emergency care unit.
“Being exposed to these new nurses where everything is bright, everything is shiny, and everything is exciting has been great,” Ence said. “They’re optimistic and they’re excited, which is basically the complete opposite of how I feel being a nurse for so many years. It has rejuvenated me.
“The biggest thing for me is that was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a different avenue for my career, doors to open for my career and a way to get me out of this emergency department. It ended up being a change of perspective. In so many ways, it has helped me realize I lost the caring part of nursing. I went in just for education and career opportunities, and it has helped me as a nurse and as a person.”
Tap the Brakes
A lot of the reason for Ence’s discontent with her career stems from the emergency unit work environment she has been immersed in for a decade.
“The things we’re constantly exposed to, the stresses we feel, and the elements of humanity we encounter take that compassion away from us,” she said. “It really does. We’re traditionally geared more toward our knowledge, our skills, our autonomy, and our ability to hold our own in that environment.
“A lot of it is self-preservation to help us do the things that we do. It’s been a good experience for me to circle back around and remember the fundamentals of nursing and to try to put that compassion and caring back into me. ”
Even though Ence did not know exactly what she wanted to do with a bachelor’s degree, she had to find a way to shake things up a bit.
“I’ve been really unhappy at work for the last three years,” she said. “I don’t want to work anywhere else, and I don’t want to do anything other than ER. Going to school just seems like I am doing something to try to find a way out of my misery. ‘I can sit here and complain or I can do something to progress my career,’ was my mindset.”
Thanks to the online RN to BSN program, including the principles of learning set forth by Dr. Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring, Ence is coming around to the idea of staying put.
“Nursing 409 [Theory of Caring Science] was one of the first courses I took,” she said. “It’s almost made me more content with where I am, and start to realize I can make a difference and find job satisfaction where I am.
“That class set the bar for me, for sure. It was awesome. Everything I learned in that class, I feel like I’ve been able to carry through my other courses to help me. I have also been able to implement them into my practice at the hospital and in my personal life.”
Once Ence enrolled in the online RN to BSN program, it took her some time to adjust before she really took off.
“I’m not super tech savvy,” she said. “The last time I went to college was 14 years ago, and everything was in a classroom. Trying to learn how to do everything online was a little bit challenging. Honestly, I’ve learned more in the format with the way the program is set up than I ever learned at any point in college.”
The graveyard shift at the hospital keeps Ence busy, as does her personal life. She has a husband, Ryan, and two children, Chancellor, 11, and Maverick, 8.
“I work my shift at the ER the first half of the week,” she said. “I kind of keep somewhat of a night shift schedule even when I’m off. Once my kids are fed and in bed, I usually come upstairs to the office and work until midnight or one o’clock in the morning.”
Ence believes her return to school has already had a positive impact on her children and their study habits.
“They know that I’m a student,” she said. “A lot of it is trying to find the balance and set that example for them. There are times when we work, times when we play, and times when we study. They’re learning to manage their time just as much as I do. I want my boys to work hard for good grades and take the time to learn and understand what they are being taught. I tell them, ‘This is my expectation for your grades because it’s my own expectation for my grades. I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not willing to do myself.’”
Ence’s interest in nursing dates back to when she was a child, and her mother home delivered her two younger brothers with the assistance of a midwife.
“My brother and I were sitting at the table eating cereal, and there’s my mom in the next room, in labor, pushing out my younger brother,” she said. “I was thinking I wanted to be a midwife, do labor and delivery and this whole environment. In a lot of ways, nursing is kind of like being a mom. It’s taking care of people, helping people, seeing people on their bad days and trying to help get them back on track.”
Ence said her colleagues and one of those younger brothers helped convince her to enroll at Nevada State College, although she wanted a school that was close to home.
“I talked to a lot of nurses I work with because there are a lot of them going back to school to get their bachelor’s degrees,” Ence said. “I got their feedback about some of the programs, and my little brother just graduated from nursing school. He did some of his prerequisite classes at Nevada State.
“He said, ‘You will love the school. Everyone is so nice and so helpful. The instructors are amazing.’ That was the feedback pretty much everybody I asked about Nevada State gave. That was my same experience. Everyone is helpful, everyone wants you to succeed, and everyone recognizes we’re adults, we’ve got families, and we’ve got jobs. It’s been an awesome experience.”
In addition to the Nursing 409 course, Ence has found all of the knowledge from the courses in the curriculum useful at her job.
“I had a cultural diversity class,” she said. “Vegas has a tourist population, so that’s been pretty applicable. I’m taking an ethics class right now. Especially working in the emergency department, there are ethical issues that arise.”
Now that Ence is a few months away from graduation, she is able to appreciate the accomplishment of her return to higher education.
“I’m one of the only women in my family to graduate from college and pursue a career and a family,” she said. “When I first got married, my grandma said, ‘Now, don’t you rush to have a family and have kids,’ which was one of the things I wanted to do with my life. She said, ‘You need to finish school.’ It’s nice to feel like I’ve made my family proud in a lot of ways.”
Ence, who also works closely with a youth group at her church, isn’t sure if she will walk the stage when the time comes.
“It’s so hard for me to look that far in advance,” she said. “I’ve got kids that are old enough where they’ve got their own agendas, so it’s hard for me to make that decision. My family definitely comes first. I’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Either way, Ence could not be happier she was able to rediscover her “shiny.”
“Keep an open mind,” she said. “Just like me, you will go into the program with certain expectations. Keeping an open mind has definitely helped me walk away with more than I expected.”
Click to learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.