Nursing program worth the sacrifice
Ellen Morris-White drives to LaGrange College 47 miles one-way three or four times
a week to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, passing by several colleges
and universities that offer a four-year nursing program along the way.
It's a sacrifice she doesn't mind one bit.
"When I was looking at going back to college, I looked at a number of colleges
in Georgia, and even outside of Georgia," says Ellen, who lives in Tyrone in Fayette
County. "What drew me here was that the nursing program has had a 100 percent success
rate repeatedly, and when you do research for nursing, that's the first thing you
Every member of the graduating nursing class for the past four years has passed
the National Council Licensure Examination, the licensing test for nurses, on the
first try. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the average
2012 passing rate was 92.07 percent for students in baccalaureate programs.
When she visited LaGrange College for the first time, she knew that the small-college
atmosphere was where she needed to be.
"It was the energy here," she says. "When I was doing my pre-requisites at Georgia
public colleges and a nearby technical college, you're in classes with 50 students
going in all different directions, not feeling that your paths and interests are
someone's priority. But I found that here, and it's hard to find anywhere. Everyone
I've had an interaction with on this campus has been helpful. They're not looking
the other way hoping you don't ask them questions."
Ellen first began college with an interest in pre-medicine in 1975, but her plans
were derailed with a family illness. She took care of multiple relatives, got married,
had a son and eventually had a career in medical sales and in the corporate medical
While taking care of her ailing mother and balancing a full-time job that required
extensive travel, she earned a bachelor's degree in business management and information
technology systems in 2006.
Four years later, the medical corporation where she worked restructured and offered
her a generous severance package.
"It was the best thing that could have happened to me," she says. "I was the only
one in my company to say, 'Great, this is going to be a wonderful opportunity for
She enrolled in college to earn pre-requisites for a bachelor's degree in nursing
immediately after the layoff in 2010.
"Having done a lot of one-on-one care with in-laws and relatives, sometimes I
really feel like I've already met that need," Ellen says. "I'm very much interested
in public health overall, such as diabetes, childhood obesity or infectious disease
control. But I also have a background in IT, so data management and nursing informatics
are also appealing.
"And for the last few weeks, we've been doing mental health rotations, and that
has really resonated with me," she says, "and I think rural health would be a fit.
Every time we cover a new topic in class, I add that to the list."
Ellen is certain she wants to continue her education with a master's degree in
her field. In the meantime, she enjoys the perspectives of the different types
of students in her nursing classes.
"We have a blend of those who already have degrees, or who have had a working
life completely unrelated to nursing and want to do something different, and of
course, 19-year-olds in college for the first time," she says. "We also have eight
or nine men in a class of 47, so it's so valuable that we have so many different
She also immensely enjoys her professors.
"It will be hard to leave this place," Ellen says. "I would take these professors
with me everywhere for the rest of my nursing career if I could, not just because
we're in similar life stages but because they've had a wonderful effect on me by
welcoming and accepting me. Their goal is absolutely on our success."