Nicole VanDyke was a stay-at-home mom to six children for well over a decade. In high school, Nicole earned her EMT endorsement and fell in love with the medical field. She went on to receive her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification and worked as an aid for several years. Nicole always wanted to go back to school for nursing, but didn’t quite know where to start.
“Intimidating doesn’t even begin to cover the feelings of going back to school,” Nicole readily admitted. “Between having six kids and being home for so long, I didn’t know how I was possibly going to manage it all. I looked into other programs. I was thinking, ‘How am I going to do this? I want to do this, but I don’t know what I’m going to do with my kids.’ At the time, full-time daycare wasn’t an option financially.”
A Career That Came Calling
One day, an advertisement played through the speakers of Nicole’s phone. “I heard about Goodwin University through an ad on Pandora that talked about the flexibility of their nursing program,” Nicole began. “And I thought to myself, ‘I need to look into that.’”
It wasn’t long before Nicole took a chance and talked to an admissions officer at Goodwin. Next, she attended an RN info session, and from there, she knew she had to take the leap. Nicole started as a student in Goodwin’s associate degree in Nursing (RN) program, and she has been with the University ever since.
“Goodwin gave me the answers I needed,” Nicole said with gratitude. “They scheduled all of my on-campus classes for one day a week, knowing I lived an hour away. I only needed a sitter for my kids on that one day, and I took as many online classes as possible. I just can’t stress it enough, as a working mom, that flexibility was huge — it’s what made me able to achieve my dreams.”
Nicole was initially concerned that she was going to be “the old lady in school.”
“But the thing is, Goodwin’s not like that,” Nicole explained. “There are people of all ages. The majority of people there were getting back into school too, and I never felt like I was out of place.”
Progressive and Personable Professors
Nicole had high praise for the professors in the nursing program. “Goodwin is set up for people with families, for people who are working full-time and need a little bit more flexibility. All of the professors I’ve ever dealt with really stand by that approach. They understand that you’ve got other things going on too, and that makes a world of difference.”
When Nicole started her RN degree, she remembered that Janice Watts, AS Nursing Program Director, told her students “If you ever have an issue, come talk to me. We’ll talk it through and figure it out.”
And recently, Nicole had to take Janice up on her offer.
When her son was facing a medical issue with that involved invasive surgery, Nicole shared with Janice what she was going through. And even though Nicole couldn’t predict the outcome of the surgery, she wanted Janice to be aware, not seeking and special favors. “Jan was so understanding,” Nicole noted in a tone of voice that conveyed the depth of her gratitude. “She sat in her office and cried with me as I explained everything that my son was going through, and she insisted I let Goodwin do something.”
Not only did Janice make sure everything was set so that Nicole didn’t have to worry about school while her son was in the operating room, she consistently followed up with her. “She kept emailing me, asking how my son was doing, how I was doing, and she really showed me how much she cared about us as students. It was absolutely amazing, and I’ll never forget it.”
A Flexible, Forward-thinking Future
Now in the RN-to-BSN program at Goodwin, Nicole values the flexibility in this program, too. “I like that the BSN classes are online,” she admits. “I live in Litchfield County, so it makes it easier for me. When I first started coming to Goodwin, I had never been to college before, and I was out of school for so many years that there was a learning curve. With six children, I am able to work around my schedule and fit school in when I need to. I have the option to do my homework during the day when my kids are off at school, or, when I’m not at work.”
Looking back on the day she graduated as an RN, Nicole was overcome with emotions. “I waited three years and three months to be in the moment, walking at my nursing pinning ceremony in white scrubs. As I came down the aisle past the chairs, Jan was there to greet us,” Nicole recalled warmly. “I looked in the crowd and saw my family, my kids, and my husband. They were looking at me with faces that said, “She did it!”
“It helped my children see that, yes, sometimes things are hard, but if you really want something and it’s your dream, and you’re willing to push and stay dedicated, then you can get through it. As a mom, you’re always showing your children how proud you are of them and for them to show that they were proud of me, it was an incredible feeling. They kept me driven and drove me to succeed. Now I have a career that I absolutely enjoy.”
Finishing up her RN-to-BSN, Nicole now works at a renowned hospital in New Haven County. Prepared for the day in her royal blue scrubs and pink work badge, Nicole works on an observation unit, an extension of the emergency room that evaluates patients for their next steps in care. Looking forward to breaking in her new nursing shoes, Nicole’s path doesn’t stop here. Once she graduates with her BSN, Nicole plans on putting one foot in front of the other and earning her Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) at Goodwin, with the ultimate goal of becoming a pediatric nurse.
“People go into nursing because they want to do well, they want to try to make the world a better place and put good out there. The best part about my job is having the opportunity to make an impact,” Nicole said proudly. “The ripples my job can create is amazing. Sometimes it’s as simple as being the one to make sure that patients get everything they need, and sometimes it’s just having a conversation with them.”
“Nursing is hard and you’re expected to do a lot,” she added. “I can’t say it happens every shift, but when you have the opportunity to make a difference, and you get a smidgen of that feeling that you’ve helped someone, it’s the best part.”
Interested in learning more about Goodwin’s nursing programs? Visit: www.goodwin.edu/nursingdegrees.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.