Student Story

Laura Wenger

Hot Springs, AR

Laura Wenger

"In the nursing field, most employers require the applicant to be a registered nurse. While there are many opportunities for employment as a licensed practical nurse in long term care, finishing my degree would open opportunities for career advancement.... The end goal for my career is to work in research nursing and continue to assist in improving patient outcomes through evidence and research-based practices."


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Twenty-five students studying online at the University of Arkansas received the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for the 2021-2022 academic year. Below is an interview in question-and-answer format with one of the winners of the scholarship that describes the daily life of a student studying online, as well as providing information on how to be successful. This interview is one of a series focusing on knowledge you can use to advance your education and your career, too.

Q: Please give us some background information: where you live, your occupation and primary job duties, family.

A: I live in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and work as a licensed practical nurse in an assisted living facility. My job duties are to manage medication administration and availability, monitor residents during daily activities, and perform wound care. I have been widowed since November of 2017, making me the sole care provider for my three children. My children have such a huge interest in the medical field and enjoy practicing vital signs and other nursing skills with me!

Q: How do you feel about receiving the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship Award? How will receiving it help you achieve your educational and professional goals?

A: I am excited and honored to receive the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship Award. Being selected as a recipient has relieved some of the stress from my home, work and school life balance. This scholarship will allow me to occasionally obtain child care to have uninterrupted times to study, and purchase the tools required for my courses and clinical experiences.

Q: What is your degree and when will it be awarded?

A: I am currently in the LPN to BSN program through the University of Arkansas. I will have finished courses for Bachelor of Science in Nursing in fall of 2023.

Q: What are your plans after you receive your degree?

A: My immediate plan after I receive my degree is to find employment as a registered nurse. I plan to work for a year to ensure that I obtain knowledge in the field prior to advancing my education again.

Q: Where do you foresee your career going in the future?

A: After I spend some time working with my new degree, I plan to return to the University of Arkansas to further my education, ultimately obtaining my master’s degree. The end goal for my career is to work in research nursing and continue to assist in improving patient outcomes through evidence and research-based practices.

Q: What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree?

A: In the nursing field, most employers require the applicant to be a registered nurse. While there are many opportunities for employment as a licensed practical nurse in long term care, finishing my degree would open opportunities for career advancement.

Q: How long have you worked as a nurse and what is your current level of licensure? Are there any particular specialty fields that interest you?

A: I have been a licensed practical nurse since 2017 and have worked mostly in long-term care facilities. One specialty field in nursing that interests me is hospice care. Being able to provide care to the end-of-life patient and be a support person for the family is such an honorable way to serve the community.

Q: Your profession has manned the front lines in the struggles against COVID from the earliest days of the pandemic. How has the pandemic affected your career and your education?

A: The COVID pandemic was the most physically and emotionally exhausting part of my nursing career. The fear of the unknown aspects of this virus scared many nurses across the world and challenged our previous methods of infection control while providing care. I worked on a COVID unit in a long-term-care facility from nearly the beginning of the pandemic. Residents that I provided care to for years passed away from the virus, with no family surrounding. Staff members I worked alongside also suffered, with a handful at my previous job passing away from complications due to COVID. I remember thinking to myself that this was not the most favorable time to be a nurse; however, it was one of the most important learning experiences I have had. As the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) would learn more about the virus, various medications, vaccines, social distancing and other health promotion strategies were mandated. This encouraged me to continue my education in order to provide care in times of public health needs.

Q: How did you learn about our program?

A: I learned about this program through an online forum of students from my practical nursing program. A few of the same classmates I previously graduated with plan to graduate together from this new program.

Q: What made you decide to choose an online rather than in-person degree program?

A: Online courses are more practical for the non-traditional student, allowing more control in managing time between home, work, school life balance.

Q: How does studying online work with your professional life and family needs?

A: Being able to study during the times available in my schedule has made the content in my courses clearer while studying online. Between my work and my children’s school schedule, attending a traditional face-to-face program would not be an option. However, I can access my courses at the times that best fit my schedule.

Q: What was it like to meet with your adviser? How did that work?

A: My adviser has been such an amazing resource for all my questions and concerns. Meeting via Zoom is more convenient and less stressful. My adviser is full of resources for tutoring and other services that the U of A offers.

Q: Did you transfer any previous course credits to the U of A? If so, what was the experience like? How did you know which classes would transfer and how to complete the process?

A: I transferred courses from my previous college to the U of A. Honestly, the process was mostly handled by staff, with little effort on my part. After turning in my transcript, the admission adviser met with me about which courses were credited to my degree plan.

Q: What is it like to be an online student on a daily basis?

A: Being an online student gives me more freedom to learn when it’s convenient for me, making returning to school less stressful and more practical.

Q: What university resources and supports have you used (i.e., library, Writing Studio, tutoring, supplemental instruction, student activities and clubs, virtual events)? How did you access those services? Did you find them helpful?

A: I have utilized the U of A library on many occasions, which I access through U of A’s website. I have found this to be one of the most important resources in finding evidence-based documents for my courses.

Q: What strategies and tools do you use to stay in touch with your professors and classmates? Do you use any non-university tools to communicate with your peers like social media or apps?

A: My professors typically use campus email to communicate but it varies on the instructor. I find it easiest to utilize Blackboard to communicate with classmates. Often, instructors will open a discussion board for students to communicate questions and be able to respond to others.

Q: Would you recommend this degree program?

A: I have had such an amazing experience in this degree program and would highly recommend it to anyone considering advancing their education.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who might be considering studying online?

A: Make a calendar of due dates and set aside time to complete assignments rather than trying to rush last minute. Time management is key for a successful online program.