Local emergency room nurse credits University's RN to BSN program with making her a ‘better-prepared nurse’
Jessica Wilkinson lauds the supportive culture of the online nursing program at BGSU
By Laren Kowalczyk '07
As an emergency room nurse, Jessica Wilkinson often encounters people on their worst days.
She does her best to offer patients reassurance and a sense of calm, whether that means holding their hand or placing a gentle touch on their shoulder.
“I want them to know that I’ve got this, and we’re doing our best to fix whatever brought them to the ER in the first place,” Wilkinson said. “Our job, first and foremost, is to save people’s lives, but we can’t forget that love is needed in that care.”
Wilkinson, 32, has worked in healthcare for more than a decade, first as an emergency medical technician, then as a licensed practical nurse and now as a registered nurse in the Wood County Hospital emergency room.
To advance her career, Wilkinson is pursuing the RN to BSN degree in the School of Nursing at Bowling Green State University. The 100% online degree program is flexible and convenient to meet the needs of working nurses like Wilkinson.
Tools to succeed
Wilkinson was initially skeptical of completing her degree online but said professors in the program quickly quelled her fears.
I’ve never had people in my corner who want to see me succeed as much as my professors at BGSU. I don’t want to say it’s easy because it isn’t. But they give you every tool needed to succeed.
- Jessica Wilkinson, RN to BSN student
Dr. Lara Wilken, assistant clinical professor and RN to BSN program coordinator, said she and her team members, who were all nontraditional students at one point during their educational journeys, prioritize student support. They know the challenges of working full time while balancing school and outside responsibilities.
“That lived experience is one of the things that makes our program unique because we can relate to where the students are,” Wilken said. “We remember what it was like to start our BSN degrees. We really pride ourselves on our ability to give back to the students either what was given to us or what it is we wished we had.”
Wilkinson said this is the first time in her college career she’s maintained a 4.0 GPA, which she attributes to the support and attentiveness of her professors. Another benefit of the program has been the relationships she’s formed with her classmates.
“You don’t think you’re going to make those connections in an online program, but you do,” Wilkinson said. “I’m so happy I chose BGSU.”
Although not a requirement of the program, Wilkinson began serving as a preceptor in the Wood County Hospital ER in the fall and is mentoring a BGSU nursing student this semester. It’s a role she said has opened her eyes to a passion for teaching.
“I love it,” she said. “It allows me to share what I’m learning in my classes with the student and help them better understand why we do certain things. I have even considered applying to be a clinical instructor for BGSU because I have enjoyed teaching and this program so much.”
When Wilkinson began her career as an EMT, she drove an ambulance for Mercy Health Life Flight and is hopeful of returning to Life Flight someday. She said she needs one more year of experience in an ER to qualify, and completing her BSN degree will provide an added advantage.
Wilkinson is on track to graduate in Spring 2023 and plans to pursue a master’s degree in nursing education in the future.
“When they say a BSN makes you a better-prepared nurse, it really does,” Wilkinson said. “As an RN, I know the job's clinical aspects and how to start an IV and take blood pressure. This degree program has brought me to the 'why.' I can explain to patients why these tests are needed or why things are being done for their condition. It truly helps you.”
Wilken has been alongside Wilkinson throughout her journey in the program as her instructor and mentor.
“One of the things I love about being a teacher in this setting is the passion, enthusiasm and excitement of these nurses,” Wilken said. “Jessica is one of those nurses who has embodied the spirit and value of what it means to be a BSN-prepared nurse.
“I, along with the rest of the RN to BSN faculty, have a deep passion for inspiring nurses to want to pursue continuing education, improve patient outcomes and serve as a mentor to other nurses. I already see those traits in Jessica, and it’s such a compliment to our program, our amazing faculty members and the University to know that we’re making a difference in her life and the lives of the patients she cares for.”
Updated: 03/07/2023 01:57PM