When Dava Thomas completes the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Mississippi College (MC) in 2020, she will finish what she started 27 years ago.
"It's something I had always intended to do," she said. "I was 19 years old when I graduated from nursing school. I thought I would keep going and earn a bachelor's degree, but I started working, had a family and never pursued it."
Thomas enrolled in the MC's online program in May 2019 after her eldest daughter, Dalyn, graduated from Mississippi State University with a nursing degree.
She and her husband, Paul, have three other children —Abbie (17), Ian (14) and Magnolia (7) — along with a 7-month-old foster child. Despite having her hands full, Thomas decided it was now or never for her BSN.
"When I look at different jobs, almost all of them require a bachelor's degree. So, I said, 'I need to do this while I can.'"
In addition to homeschooling two of the kids, Thomas works two days a week for Forrest General Homecare and Hospice in Laurel, Mississippi. She has served the hospital system in various roles since 2011.
"School has been flexible. I know what I have to do, and I can work around my job and my kids," she said.
Thomas chose Mississippi College for the accelerated format of the online program and the affordability of tuition.
"I like that it is 7-week courses and fast-paced," she said. "I also love that it's a Christian college. I can express my views in the papers that I write."
Seeing the Light
Thomas was born and raised in Jones County, Mississippi, where she still resides. When she was a teenager, a nursemaid who worked with her family inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare.
"She made a strong impression," Thomas said. "She seemed to care about me and went out of her way to check on me. I wanted to be that kind of person for people. That's how it all started."
After graduating with an Associate Degree in Nursing from Jones County College in 1993, Thomas started a career and a family.
"They are excited for me to go back, but they're also ready for me to finish — especially my 7-year-old. She thinks all I do is spend time on the computer, between work and school. My family has enjoyed my experience, too. They have watched me do some of the videos and things I had to do for class. We do homework together," said Thomas.
NUR 313: Research in Nursing Practice and NUR 303: Health Assessment were Thomas' two favorite courses in the program, but she gained valuable knowledge from the entire curriculum. It made her aware of the value of a BSN.
"When I was working with nurses who had their bachelor's degrees, I always felt like they didn't know any more than I did," she said. "The RN to BSN program has enlightened me on a lot of things, like policies and the way government works in healthcare.
"I have definitely learned how to research and distinguish if sources are credible. That helps you — especially in this day and age — with everything thrown in your face. The Health Assessment course was a good review of my knowledge."
Even though Thomas had not taken a college course since the 1990s, she acclimated quickly to the fully online format.
"I had taken a couple of online classes before," she said. "The professors at Mississippi College are good about getting back to me when I have a question. I am an overthinker, so I touch base with them pretty often."
Now that Thomas is close to completing her journey as a student, she is considering a different perspective — that of an educator. She is also eyeing the nurse practitioner role as a career option down the road.
"I have thought about teaching in a hospital or academic setting — either at a junior college or a university," she said. "COVID-19 has changed my mind about a lot of things. I enjoy teaching, and I do it with my children at home a lot anyway."
Thomas hopes to walk the graduation stage at Mississippi College in December 2020.
"My children want me to, so I think that I would," she said. "Right now, my husband is deployed to South Carolina for COVID-19. He is in the Air Force."
On the personal front, Thomas plans to continue advocating for orphans and foster children while also attending her kids' extracurricular events after completing the online RN to BSN program.
"Since I have a foster child, I haven't been as active lately," she said. "I love being a foster parent. It's opened up my eyes to the needs in our community."
Having completed the online degree program in a little over a year, Thomas is proud of coming full circle and eager to see what the future holds.
"The degree will create opportunities for me — especially at the hospital," she said. "You just have to make sure to have a few extra hours for school. I have enjoyed the RN to BSN program at Mississippi College a lot."
Learn more about the Mississippi College online RN to BSN program.
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