As a single mother, Allison Schuster has a close relationship with her daughter, Abigail — so close that they will soon both have nursing degrees from Youngstown State University (YSU).
“When Abigail went into nursing as a freshman, I knew that I wanted to get started,” said Schuster. “I hoped to graduate around the same time that she did. It was important to me to say that I did it and we both had our degrees.”
Schuster graduated from the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at YSU in December 2020. Her daughter will complete the on-campus BSN program in the spring of 2021.
“I was very happy with the program,” Schuster said.
The flexibility of the online format helped her earn a degree while working full time without missing a beat. She is a nurse in the endoscopy department at Southwoods Surgical Hospital in Youngstown.
“It was a pretty quick pace, so it took a little bit to get myself going,” she said. “I had been out of school a long time. Plus, I was doing it all online. Once COVID-19 hit, our instructors were especially great about working with us. It’s nice to work on school around your schedule.”
Schuster, 43, is from Sharon, Pennsylvania, where she still resides. She worked several different jobs but didn’t have a set professional career before becoming a nurse.
“I thought I would be good at [nursing],” she said. “I have always been level-headed. My dad had colon cancer when I was 18 years old, and I did a lot of his care. I was well suited to that, so it was something I thought I could do.
“On a whim, I applied to the diploma program in my hometown and got accepted. It snowballed. Once I started nursing, I knew that’s what I should be doing.”
She earned a diploma from Sharon Regional School of Nursing in 2008, taking 20 months to complete the program.
Procrastination and a shortage of funds kept her from pursuing her BSN, and she gained more than 10 years of work experience before enrolling at YSU.
“I know there are so many online programs, but I liked getting it from a university,” she said. “It was nice to be able to finish where I started my prerequisites. I also thought it would be nice that my daughter and myself would be YSU alumnae.”
NURS 3730: Culture in Nursing was Schuster’s favorite course in the online RN to BSN curriculum, but she also enjoyed learning about technology in NURS 3725: Nursing Informatics.
“We were able to compare and contrast two cultures,” she said. “I picked Native American and Eskimo. I have family in Alaska who are Alaskan Eskimo who are actual natives. It was interesting to learn the background of their cultures along with nursing studies.
“We also see a diverse clientele in the hospital where I work. That diversity class was very applicable to my day-to-day, along with the technology one. I got a lot out of the courses.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Schuster graduated in a virtual ceremony. She hopes that Abigail can attend in person in a few months and they can celebrate together.
“As an adult student, I wasn’t sure I was going to attend graduation,” she said. “Since it was virtual, why not? I had my cap and gown.”
Schuster, who enjoys traveling and attending live theatre, had plenty of support for her return to higher education and believes it was an important step for her to take.
“My family is all very excited for me,” she said. “It took a long time for me to decide what I wanted to do with my life. My parents, for sure, are very happy that I went back and finished the degree.”
Now that Schuster has completed the online RN to BSN program at YSU, she believes that earning the degree is attainable for most anybody.
“I met many different people from a lot of backgrounds online — from students who did not come from nursing careers … to one who was a flight nurse in a hospital,” she said.
She noticed that her online classmates found ways to fit studies into their busy schedules.
“One of my co-workers said, ‘I would never be able to do this with two kids at home.’ You can — it depends on what you want to put into it,” Schuster said.
She is proud to see her daughter following in her footsteps. They will soon have even more in common as YSU alumnae.
“It was special for us. I like being able to go back and say I did it. Even though I finished before Abigail, I was taking some of the courses she had already taken. She definitely helped me with the technology. It was a good bonding experience.”
Well done, Allison and Abigail.
Learn more about YSU’s online RN to BSN program.