While the COVID-19 pandemic caused many to put their guard up, Damayra Amante moved straight to the front lines.
She was already working as a nurse in a busy New Jersey hospital and thinking about returning to school. Seeing the need for well-educated nurses grow exponentially pushed her to enroll in the online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at William Paterson University in July 2020.
Before the pandemic, Amante worked as a pediatric floor nurse, but when COVID-19 hit, she was suddenly responsible for treating patients up to the age of 45.
“With the pandemic and everything else going on, it made me realize that I needed to do more. Nurses are so needed. The healthcare world is so needed right now. I decided I had to continue my education because it could help everybody around me. I couldn’t just stay still.”
While she loved her job and wanted to continue as a floor nurse, she knew it was time to work on advancing her career. She is on track to graduate from WP’s RN to BSN online program in May 2021.
Shifts in Learning
Although Amante was already working long hours in the middle of the pandemic and raising her children with her husband, her family reassured her that she could handle it. Her oldest daughter is also a college student with online class experience, and she agreed to help her mom learn the format.
It wasn’t long before Amante parlayed her computer skills from checking social media and doing research to online learning.
“My daughter helped me figure it out,” she said.
She was surprised by some of the perks of online programming, including a digital library and online tutoring – she could get answers 24/7.
“I’m a night person, and I’m awake in the middle of the night. That’s when I do all my work. Literally, I could send a message at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and somebody would respond to me very promptly.”
Right University, Right Time
Even though Amante always knew she wanted her bachelor’s degree in nursing, she wasn’t necessarily looking to return to school right away, but a Facebook ad caught her attention.
“I was thinking about it or maybe I said something out loud, and it popped up: ‘William Paterson University announces RN to BSN program. You can finish in 12 months.’ I thought that sounded too good to be true, but I knew it was a reputable school that I could trust, so I decided to look into it.
“The program requirements were clear cut and to the point, and the school was surprisingly affordable.”
She had always admired the William Paterson nursing students when they came to her hospital to complete their rotations. She applied, got accepted and has not looked back since.
Amante earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in 2006 from Passaic County Community College and her RN license shortly after. She has been working as a pediatric nurse ever since.
“You need your bachelor’s in nursing to advance into anything and then ideally, a master’s. This BSN is just a steppingstone into furthering my career,” she said. “Hospitals aren’t really hiring people with just their associate’s. Everybody’s pushing for you to get your bachelor’s.”
WP’s RN to BSN online program has already proven helpful to Amante’s knowledge base.
She explained the difference: “With my BSN, I’m learning the actual disease processes and how things work. I’m learning more in depth about nursing than before, and now I understand there is a big difference between an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a BSN.”
Twice before, Amante attended different universities in the traditional classroom setting but could not complete the BSN due to scheduling conflicts with her job. In WP’s online RN to BSN program, she has been able to maintain good grades thanks to family backing and a university with unique resources.
“I’m almost 40, and I work nights and I have a family,” she said. “I just didn’t feel the support in the other universities, as I have at William Paterson. This is the first time that I can say I’m going to graduate.”
As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Amante grew up in a Spanish-speaking household. She learned to translate between English and Spanish at a young age to help her parents, and now she does the same at the hospital, as a certified translator.
As a nurse once told her, “Nursing isn’t easy, but you can do it if you apply yourself. Then you can help others.”
Amante took that to heart, and she is thrilled that she’s on her way to adding a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to her credentials.
“My parents did not even obtain a high school degree in their country. So, getting a university degree is a big deal in our family,” she said.
One of Amante’s favorite classes so far has been NUR 5461: Advanced Pathophysiology taught by Dr. Lydia Albuquerque, who has inspired her to keep learning and reaching for more.
“Dr. Albuquerque said to me, ‘Mrs. Amante, I don’t think you’re just going to be a floor nurse. I can tell, with your drive and your dedication, you’re going to be something bigger. You need to get your master’s. That was the first time anybody’s ever said that to me. I didn’t think ahead like that because I never even thought I could get my bachelor’s, let alone my master’s.”
Amante has found her nursing adviser, Dr. Sharon Puchalski, to be very helpful in guiding her through the program, and every teacher has been responsive when she needed an answer or clearer direction. Dr. Celeste Bethon was another favorite.
“You have to dedicate yourself to school,” Amante said. “It’s really hard. But the reward in the end of being able to help people is what’s pushing me to finish the degree.”
Learn more about the WP’s online RN to BSN program.