Hunt School of Nursing Prepares Educator to Teach New Generation of Nurses

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Ruthanne Palumbo (’16) Gains Strong Foundation Through Doctor of Nursing Practice 

Ruthanne Palumbo (’16) started her educational journey by attending night classes to earn her GED. Over the next two decades, she worked, took care of her family, became a registered nurse and obtained her master’s degree. A nurse educator in Wilmington, N.C., she felt compelled to travel one more road, which led her to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Gardner-Webb University.

“I wanted this degree to be a fun, educational adventure,” she explained. “I told myself when I was researching if it isn’t meant to be it won’t work out. I kept getting drawn back to the Gardner-Webb website and wanted to learn more about the application process, the college itself, etc. Before I knew it, I was applying.”

She settled on Gardner-Webb’s Hunt School of Nursing after looking into several other programs. Despite being more than four hours away, it was the best choice and the only school she sent an application. “I decided to go back to school, because I love education and enjoy learning,” she asserted. “Although I do not need a doctorate to be in my current job, I feel as an educator I have a responsibility to serve as a role model for the nursing profession.”

Her story of determination also serves as inspiration to her students. Because of financial circumstances, she took a full-time job when she was in the ninth grade and later dropped out of high school. She discovered her passion for nursing when she took a job caring for children who were handicapped physically and mentally. In her next job in a long-term care facility, her co-workers and supervisor recognized her potential and encouraged her to go back to school. After obtaining her GED, she stayed at home with her children for a few years before earning her RN degree.

“I worked hard,” Palumbo reflected. “It was difficult at times, because I felt like I had to look up every other word and words within the definition had to be looked up too. I deal with many students who feel the same way I did many years ago. They don’t think they can do it or don’t have the time, money, education, etc., and I want to tell them if I can do it, you can too!”

She began as a bedside nurse in a hospital and worked her way up to management. “I had an opportunity to go back to school to obtain my Master’s in Nursing Education,” she related. “To help people become a nurse is beyond anything I could have hoped to do.”

Gardner-Webb’s program has given her more confidence in her own abilities. “I feel ready. I have never felt ready before,” she shared. “I have always felt unsure, uneasy, unprepared, unworthy for just about everything. I keep thinking that I finally have a strong foundation underneath me. The teachers at Gardner-Webb have been absolutely amazing. I can honestly say I am a stronger, wiser, more powerful, self-assured nurse and person because of Gardner-Webb.”

The class structure makes the six-semester program easier to manage and helps students develop friendships. “We have week-long intensive sessions at the beginning of each semester,” Palumbo explained. “Most of my cohort travels from different areas. We all try to stay in the same hotel so we can socialize and support each other through the week. There are typically several projects and presentations required during these sessions. This is such a great time to bond with the cohort and really get to know our teachers in person. Having this face-to-face time is so important, you feel much more connected to the college and to each other. The online sessions are very well organized and the expectations are clearly and readily available during intensives, so if we have any questions we can get clarification prior to making our way home.”

The students also stay in touch with each other through email, text messaging, phone calls and social media. The teachers are available and responsive and send encouraging messages. “This program is so manageable. We have a full array of people in our cohort who work full time as leaders in their organizations, nurse practitioners with their own practices, and nurses who work full time as educators and have babies at home,” Palumbo assessed.

As a mother who also works full-time outside the home, she feels that she has been able to balance her responsibilities without missing out on any important life events. “I have managed to fit in the coursework without disrupting my life or job,” she related. “I can honestly say I have actually looked forward to the coursework and the assignments. It has been a truly wonderful experience in every way.”