Married to the Military: Sacrifices of the Military Spouse
In becoming a nurse, our pre-licensure education is completed at a brick and mortar school due to board of nursing requirements. However, the opportunities beyond that initial education to receive the registered nurse (RN) license are endless in how we achieve our educational and career goals. RN to BSN, MSN, and doctoral programs are now available online to accommodate the needs of the working nurse.
As we enter Nurses Week from May 6-12, I reflect on my own nursing career and educational progression. It would not have been possible without online education. Why? I am a military spouse, parent, and nurse. As a working nurse, I wanted to continue my education. I wanted to be a nurse educator. However, I needed a way that I could do that while working along with multiple military moves and family obligations. Using online education provided me the opportunity to obtain my Masters of Science and Doctorate of Nursing Practice degrees.
Being married to a member of the U.S. armed forces comes with its own unique set of challenges. Frequent and unexpected moves from one duty station to another and the rapid tempo of deployments are just a few adjustments made by the military family. The military spouse has to adjust rapidly to the changing environment; leaving friends, communities, and jobs they are familiar with to relocate to a new, unfamiliar setting. With these challenges, spouses face obstacles to further their education and careers. The online learning environment provides a unique stability opportunity for military spouses to pursue educational and career goals despite the changing environment in which they live.
A Shift in Learning
On campus programs limit the ability of the spouse due to the frequent moves during an academic program. Credits are lost and increased costs are incurred to apply to another school when moving. Not to mention, lost time in pursuing a degree. Prior to online education, the rapid moving requirement of military families would have prevented educational advancement. With online learning, options have opened up for military spouses. Being able to pursue online education allows enhanced career opportunities and an improved standard of living for military families.
As a nurse, I wanted to expand my education so that I would have increased opportunities in the future, not only for me but for my family as well. Onsite education was not an option as I knew military moves were inevitable. Good thing I realized this fact. During my master’s degree program, I moved three times in three years to a new duty station. In my doctoral program, I moved twice. Even with the stress of a move, I was able to continue my nursing studies without interruption.
Why Online Learning?
There has been tremendous growth in online educational programs. Education in the online format is now available for certificate programs, as well as associate, bachelor, and graduate degrees. In searching for a degree program online, it is important to find a good fit, and a program that is tailored to the learner’s needs and degree goals.
Benefits of Online Learning
When pursuing additional higher education, it is important to understand the benefits of learning in the online environment.
- Flexibility – No matter the location or time zone, one can continue their education on a flexible schedule. Most online classes are asynchronous. Education continues without delay. Starting my doctorate program, I was on Hawaii Standard Time (HST) and then ended up being on Eastern Standard Time (EST) by the time I graduated. Finding a hotspot site for internet access and adjusting to a new time zone are inconveniences with a move but can be easily adapted to by the online student. Hotspots on a cell phone are a great way to keep in contact in between moves and continue educational work. Honestly, it was my best friend during a move and until my home internet was established. Classwork can be scheduled around family and work demands, as well as the changing schedules of the military family. As a nurse, I worked night shift. Having to move frequently did not always mean you received your preferred shift to work. So, a lot of my new jobs required me to work night shift. Based on my work and family schedule, I could plan my studying and clinical practicum practice days around them. It was not always easy, but I got it done.
- Benefits – Pursuing education can be stressful on a family’s budget. Numerous education benefits exist for military spouses to cover or reduce their expenses. Many of them cover online education. It is important to review what you may qualify for as it will greatly reduce costs. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 773,000 veterans and family members have received education benefits since the inception of the Post-9/11 GI Bill®. In addition to the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, other benefits available include MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts), Survivor’s and Dependent’s Educational Assistance (DEA), military scholarships and grants, and military spouse tuition reduction at some colleges. Each of these benefits have eligibility and qualification requirements.
- Support Services for Military Spouses – At Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), military spouses have a support group through SNHUconnect called Military Spouses. In this forum, academic advisors share content and support students. In addition, students share about matters that are important to them. Currently, there are 1850 updates to this forum with 597 followers. In this group, an undergraduate student shared, “I absolutely love the Military Spouses Group! It’s filled with uplifting and supportive spouses who understand how chaotic the military lifestyle can be.”
Online education and increased use of technology have provided more opportunities for military spouses to pursue their educational goals. Education can be obtained without delay while improving career opportunities no matter the location. Not only does it promote personal growth of the military spouse, it also improves the lives of the entire military family. Thinking back, while the journey was not always easy, I am so appreciative that online learning was available. I was able to achieve my career goals as a nurse and educator. Because of the impact of my educational journey, I now have the privilege of working for SNHU and its nursing programs. It allows me to use my nursing and educational skills while providing the flexibility that is best for my family. I have found the perfect fit as I am now able to help transform the lives of nurses as they pursue their educational goals.
More information about SNHU’s nursing programs can be found here.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
Dr. Sonya Blevins is an associate dean of nursing at Southern New Hampshire University.