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February 1, 2022

Grad Profile: Julie Lovelace

What is your hometown?

My hometown is Humboldt, Tennessee.

What is your current position?

My current position is Clinical Manager in the Emergency Department at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

What previous positions have you held?

In nursing school, when I first started at the hospital, I was a Unit Secretary in the hospital’s staffing office. I went to various floors, filling in when their unit secretaries were out. In my second year of nursing school, I transferred to the Emergency Department to become a Nurse Intern. Soon after I graduated from Jackson State Community College with my ASN, I became a Staff Nurse in the Emergency Department. Eventually, I became a Charge Nurse in the Emergency Department and then finally into the position I have today, Clinical Manager.

What degree did you earn from WGU?

I earned my BSN from WGU.

Why did you choose WGU? 

There are a few reasons why I chose WGU to get my BSN. First, the flexibility. I continued to work full time while getting my BSN. I would work my shifts Monday through Friday, and then come home and study or take my tests. I didn’t have to drive to a local college or library to take my tests. Instead, I could do them from home and at any time, day or night. Another reason I chose WGU was the competency-based model. Through the portal, I could add more classes to my term at any point, as long as I thought I could finish them during that term. Thanks to the flexibility, I was able to complete my BSN program in 10 months. Finally, I chose WGU because it was the most “wallet-friendly” way for me to get my BSN.

How has your WGU degree improved your career?

My program taught me leadership principles that I use in my current position. I also learned more effective ways to communicate with not only staff and colleagues, but also patients and their families. 

In what ways has your WGU nursing degree helped you provide better service and patient care?

In the last term, there is a community class, and a final project to complete. Those elements helped me to better understand my community and their needs – not just healthcare needs, but housing and food disparity as well.

What are some challenges that rural healthcare organizations in Tennessee face? What suggestions do you have as possible solutions?

One challenge we see is a lack of specialization. In some cases, patients have to travel to Memphis or Nashville to get the care they need (i.e., trauma, pediatric ICUs, certain neurological treatments, pediatric and geriatric psych care, transplants, etc.). It seems to me that the only way to solve this problem is to hire more specialists, but that presents its own set of hurdles, too.

The biggest challenge, though, is staffing. Rural areas do not have the draw of a big city. For the most part, if you are going to work in a rural hospital, it is because you live in the area. For a quick fix, rural hospitals bring in agency staff to assist with filling the open positions, but this is a double-edged sword. When hospitals bring in agency staff to help with surging healthcare needs, the temporary staffers end up recruiting some permanent staff to leave their positions and become traveling nurses, too.

One potential solution is for rural hospitals to implement annual retention bonuses for permanent staff. We also need more qualified healthcare professionals in rural communities. It’s difficult to solve the staffing shortage problem when there simply are not enough healthcare workers in the area to fill the available positions.

What takeaways would you impart to potential WGU students?

I looked into many of the online schools because I knew that an online school would fit my life better. WGU fit my needs. They had class instructors and personal mentors that I could always reach out to if I had questions or concerns. It was affordable, and I was able to take classes on my schedule.

I’d also encourage residents of rural communities to look at WGU’s various scholarships. For example, WGU Tennessee has a relatively new Rural Healthcare Scholarship, valued up to $5,000. Before April 30, 2022, people can also apply for the Tenn-K Scholarship – that one’s $10,000. Since WGU is already affordable, these scholarships cover a significant portion of the cost to get a degree. I’d encourage people to apply for scholarships – you just might get one, but either way, you’ll be glad that you chose WGU!

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