Empty nest, full plate.
Once the youngest of Lisa Blankenberger's four sons turned 21 and moved out of her house, she settled into the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at Purdue University Northwest. Blankenberger is on track to graduate by January 2019.
"It wasn't much of an adjustment because the timing was perfect," she said. "My husband, Tony, said that he's glad I'm not always saying, 'Let's go do this. Let's go do that. Play a game of cards with me. I'm bored.' Now it's, 'Hurry up. I need to get home and do schoolwork.'"
Blankenberger is a case manager in telemetry at Franciscan Health in the Chicago suburb Olympia Fields, Illinois. She has worked at the hospital for 14 years and lives in Northwest Indiana. After graduating with an Associate Degree of Nursing from Prairie State College in 1991, she started an RN to BSN degree program.
"I started to get my bachelor's degree in 1994 and took a pathophysiology course from Purdue," Blankenberger said. "Then, life happened. I was shocked when I got my transcript and saw that I didn't have to take that class again. Purdue Northwest accepted it from over 20 years ago."
Another advantage for Blankenberger is getting the inside scoop from her daughter-in-law, Brianne, an alumna of the online RN to BSN program at Purdue Northwest. Blankenberger's newest daughter-in-law, Racheal, is also a nurse with a BSN from a different university.
"It has worked out really well, and I am no computer whiz," Blankenberger said. "It was a little challenging, but I went to the library a few times and had people help me. There was some trial and error, but I'm learning it. Everything is going fine."
As a child, Blankenberger moved "every couple of years" with her father regularly landing better jobs. She graduated from high school in Berwyn, Illinois.
"I only went to the high school I graduated from for one year," she said. "I was always interested in nursing from childhood up. It was something that I always liked."
While building a nursing practice that is now more than 30 years strong, Blankenberger raised four sons -- Eddie (Brianne's husband), Anthony, Jacob (Racheal's husband) and Jeffrey. Her family is very excited and enthusiastic about her return to higher education.
"Oh, they thought it was awesome," Blankenberger said. "They're very supportive. They said, 'You can do it.' That means a lot to me."
Although Blankenberger is not earning a bachelor's degree in order to create more career opportunities, she sees how the degree opens doors for nurses seeking advancement.
"For most of the nurses who are younger, they are going to need that bachelor's degree," she said. "I loved the course about trust and leadership [NUR 48200: Nursing Leadership and Management]. It taught me all kinds of things about being a manager. I also loved the ethics class [NUR 39100: Professional Ethics] because it is absolutely applicable to my job."
Even with her wealth of real-world experience, Blankenberger finds the knowledge she gained from the online RN to BSN program applicable to everyday situations at her workplace.
"When I was sitting around the lunchroom table the other day, a coworker was talking about something that was going on in the hospital," she said. "I was able to pull up what I learned in my ethics class and say, 'That's ethically not correct.' It led to a whole conversation."
Blankenberger appreciates the support she receives from friends and family for her pursuit of a BSN. She also remains impressed by the amount of assistance Purdue Northwest's faculty and staff provide as she earns a degree online while balancing a full-time job.
"They do what they can to help you out," she said. "There's a lady who works in the library at Purdue Northwest in Hammond whose job is to help the nursing students. Don't be afraid to ask people for help, whether it be your classmates, the librarian or your instructor. The instructors are very helpful. If you have a question for them, they get back to you instantly. There was no delay at all in their responses."
Blankenberger, who enjoys reading, boating and cooking, spends between 10 and 15 hours per week on school to maintain her status as an 'A' student.
"I put everything that I can into it," she said. "Anybody who enrolls in the online RN to BSN program at Purdue Northwest should be excited about it and have an open mind going in."
Like many empty-nesters, Blankenberger misses having her kids living at home.
Still, she is happy with her decision to pick up where she left off with the RN to BSN program 24 years earlier. She also looks forward to completing the program and having her family on hand to watch her walk the graduation stage in the near future.
"I sat through all of my kids' graduations," she said. "So, they can come sit through mine."
Learn more about the Purdue Northwest online RN to BSN program.
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