Flagstaff Medical Center

Flagstaff Medical Center

From both her grandparents to aunts and cousins, Danielle Cox was destined for blue and gold.

But despite her aspirations, working 12-hour graveyard shifts as the charge nurse in the Intensive Care Unit of Flagstaff Medical Center didn’t allow her the option of going back to school to pursue her bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Doing so would force her to quit her full-time job—a luxury she couldn’t afford.

With a critical shortage of nurses predicted by 2025, a nationwide initiative was born encouraging all associate degree nurses to obtain their BSN by 2020, said Laura Blank, associate clinical professor and faculty mentor in the School of Nursing.

“Arizona is predicted to take the biggest hit with 28,100 fewer nurses than necessary,” said Blank, who served as professor, mentor and career advisor to Cox through the duration of her studies. “One reason for this shortage is lack of nursing faculty.”

Aware of the pressure to obtain her BSN, Cox looked into nontraditional ways to obtain her degree and discovered Northern Arizona University’s Personalized Learning program. The online program is competency-based and allows students to work at their own pace and progress at their own rate.

“I was able to work my stretch of night shifts and then dedicate my days off to school,” Cox said. “Having no deadlines or due dates made going to school while working simple.”

The program is designed to fit into the schedules of working professionals, with the learning platform centered around real-world career knowledge, building on already mastered experiences—perfect for Cox, who has worked in the nursing field for five years.

Danielle Cox

Danielle Cox

“The understanding from the instructors that most students are working RNs and letting their work-based knowledge shine through was amazing,” Cox said. “Every personal story was met with gratitude and excitement. It made me want to share my professional stories and outlook on every paper.”

Next week, Cox will be the first Personalized Learning student to graduate from the RN-to-BSN program, completing the 33 credits needed to obtain her degree in less than six months.

Earning this degree puts her one step closer to obtaining her master’s of science in nursing, which she plans to pursue after graduation—enabling her to teach if she chooses.

Thanks to the Personalized Learning program, not only is Arizona one nurse closer to combatting the shortage of nurses soon to hit the state, but the Cox family is one alumna closer to a legacy of Lumberjacks. Cox joins her family as the eighth NAU alum to graduate.

After all, who is she to deny destiny?