How Far Would You Go to Become an RN? One Mom’s 3,000-Mile Journey Toward a New Future.

These are 51 students, each at the very beginning of their journey toward becoming a registered nurse through Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. They all have different reasons for wanting to change direction with their careers and become a nurse. For Lisa Koykar, a member of the fall 2017 start, earning a master’s in nursing will allow her to achieve her dream and show her three daughters they can do anything they set their minds to do — no matter the obstacles.

Overcoming Obstacles

Becoming a registered nurse through an accelerated MSN program like Marquette’s takes hard work and dedication. Lisa has that passion to succeed, but not without a few obstacles. Lisa is more than a Direct Entry MSN student — she’s also a mom to three girls under the age of 6 and a military spouse going back to school. To get started on her dream of becoming a nurse, she had a lot to figure out and overcome.

“My husband was a company commander in the Army, and we were stationed in Alaska for four years,” she says. “At the same time I was applying to nursing school, he was awaiting his next orders, so we had no idea where we would wind up.”

Lisa didn’t let that affect her choice to go back to school and become a nurse. She applied for Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program and was accepted. The same day she learned of her acceptance into the program, her husband received his orders — to transfer to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“It was tense for sure, everything happening at once,” she says. “I was making a decision to separate my family. It’s one thing when your family is separated because of deployment, but it’s another when it becomes your own decision. I went through every emotion, but I knew I had to do this.”

With her husband’s full support, they began to make a plan of how they would make it all work.

Relocating for Nursing School

First, Lisa had to figure out how to relocate from Alaska with three children in tow. From where she would stay to how to manage being a mom going back to college, she had a lot to manage and plan. Luckily she had help from her Marquette Direct Entry MSN admissions adviser, Rob.

“Bless Rob because he was really amazing throughout the whole thing,” she says. “He would check in on me every week, and I felt like he genuinely cared.”

Lisa and her family in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska just a few months before she relocated for nursing school.

Lisa and her daughters ended up moving in with her sister-in-law and husband, who have three kids of their own and live about an hour’s drive from the Direct Entry MSN site in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

“It’s six kids under one roof, but it’s really working out well,” she says. “My sister-in-law works from home and is able to watch my youngest when I have labs in Pleasant Prairie. My family has been a great support.”

Lisa says it’s not always easy. There are days she wants to bury her head in a pillow and cry, but what pushes her forward are her daughters and her determination to be a great role model for them.

“The way I look at it is this is an extremely short chapter of my life,” she says. ”I’m showing my girls what it’s like to be a mom in college. I want them to see women can be anything they want to be and know that no matter where they are in life, they can achieve their goals. I want my girls to be proud of me.”

Why Nursing?

Before beginning nursing school, Lisa was a communications major who had the opportunity to work with military families in Alaska. Her husband was a company commander, so part of her role during his tenure was leading the Family Readiness Group (FRG), an organization to help support soldiers and their families. Lisa was responsible for supporting spouses, especially during training exercises or through childbirth.

“Most of us were thousands of miles away from our homes,” she says. “This was the first time away from home for many soldiers and their families so I was there to help them adjust to Army life.”

It was an experience during her time leading the program that solidified her desire to become a nurse. Just after having a baby and being discharged, a soldier’s spouse developed a life-threatening infection. Lisa ran over to help, got her to the hospital and took care of the baby while she recovered.

“Being able to help her through that experience was very fulfilling for me,” she says. “That’s when I knew I wanted to become a nurse. I want to be part of improving peoples’ lives.”

Finding the Right Accelerated Nursing Program

When Lisa was researching whether she wanted an accelerated BSN or MSN program, Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program was the first to pop up online.

“I just applied to it. I mean, we didn’t know where my husband was going to be stationed next, but nothing was going to stop me from becoming a nurse. My husband supported me 100%,” she says. 

Marquette University was actually a part of Lisa’s life before she even thought about becoming a registered nurse.

“My husband graduated in 2009 from Marquette University,” she says. “The first time I went there, I loved the campus and the students. Marquette’s students really set the school apart because everyone I met was so kind and warm. So when I decided I wanted to become a nurse I looked into Marquette because I wanted to be part of that kind of community.”

Choosing Marquette was kismet for Lisa. While going through the application process, she ran into a woman wearing a Marquette sweater at a restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska. It turned out she was an alumna who was now working as a nurse at a nearby hospital.

“She told me there is an alumni association in Anchorage, so as soon as I graduated I was to look them up,” Lisa says. “That’s what is so special about Marquette. I think even after you graduate there’s such a strong bond among alumni.”

The Marquette Difference

Besides Marquette’s generous students and alumni, the school’s high-quality nursing curriculum also solidified Lisa’s choice.

“Marquette is about making an individual into a nurse who’s technically proficient and genuinely cares about the profession,” she says. “I’ve only been in the program for a month, and already my professor, Dr. Muglia, has profoundly impacted my life. She takes time out to really help me understand what I’m learning. I already know I’ll never forget her.”

That care and dedication toward student success starts from the moment you inquire about the Direct Entry MSN program. To Lisa, that’s what sets the program and the school apart.   

“From the admissions advisers to the professors, everyone at Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program takes a special interest in our success,” Lisa says. “That’s a great thing to see because a lot of us are not from Wisconsin. Many of us relocated for nursing school and we’re putting a lot into this education, so for them to take an expressed interest in each of us is amazing.”

How to Manage it All

Managing being an accelerated nursing student, a mom and a military spouse may seem daunting to most people, but for Lisa it’s all about staying organized.

“I have a weekly planner so I can plan out my life hour by hour, including time with my kids,” she says. “Becoming a registered nurse is a full-time job, so you have to stay organized. When you become a parent you learn to just do it.”

Lisa’s hour-by-hour weekly planner that helps her balance school and being a mom.

Lisa also leans on her cohort for support and has already met others who share in her experience of being a mom and a military spouse going back to school.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Lisa’s biggest advice to anyone who wants to become a registered nurse is go with your heart.

“There’s a reason why you’re looking at nursing and you need to use that reason to drive you,” she says. “For me it was being a part of peoples’ lives and improving them. Everyone has a reason and purpose, so grab your dream and make it happen.”

If you’re ready to make your dream of becoming a nurse happen, contact us today and learn more about Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program.

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