After 37 years of working as a nurse and raising four children on her own, Geraldine Donlin had earned the chance to slow down.
Instead, she signed up for FSC’s online RN to BSN program, not because she needed a BS to advance her career, but because she always wanted one.
“I’ve been successful, even though a lot of places require a bachelor’s degree, but I don’t need it,” said Donlin, 54. “I’m finally getting back to doing things for myself.” Her youngest son, 17, is considering studying architecture at FSC.
Donlin usually takes two courses a semester, all while working full time at Good Shepherd Hospice and doing clinical hours. “You have to have balance in your life, otherwise you have no joy," she said.
Among her challenges were learning the platform used for online classes and maintaining the organization, self-motivation, and self-discipline required to keep all the balls in the air—plus working 12-hour shifts at her job and being a mom.
scared of not achieving everything I want to do.
Donlin’s children provide encouragement and tech support. "My kids were happy and proud that I decided to do this. It’s something I spoke of often and they all knew it was a wish of mine.” The professors have been very flexible and supportive, at times allowing her to arrange assignments around her work schedule. “When you take a program online, you actually have to work harder and hold yourself accountable to get the work done,” Donlin said.
Donlin’s skills and work ethic are exemplary, according to Monica Diamond-Caravella, Associate Professor of Nursing. “Geraldine is one of the most extraordinary students we’ve ever had in the RN to BSN program,” she said. “Her writing is at the graduate-student level and she shows intellectual curiosity and a love of learning. She excels in the face of challenges.”
Donlin received her associate’s degree from Borough of Manhattan Community College and spent most of her career in clinical settings, the majority in cardiac rehabilitation programs. Before that, she studied business in high school. She worked in a law firm after graduation and was doing well enough that people encouraged her to become a paralegal or even go to law school. But one of the attorneys with whom she worked said she didn’t seem happy with law, and suggested she talk with some nurses he knew.
While many nurses say the desire to help people drew them to the profession, Donlin said it was the prospect of not having the same daily routine that lured her. “I love helping people, but it was more about doing something different every day,” she said. “You experience so many different things in a day.” Once she completes her BSN, Donlin said, she would love to get certified as a nurse practitioner, but has not decided whether to pursue that. She draws inspiration from a quote by Melanie Laurent: “I’m not scared of growing old, I’m just scared of not achieving everything I want to do.”