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ON HIS WAY: Thanks to an accelerated BSN program that allows students with a bahcelor's degree to earn a BSN in just 15 months, Donavon Baldridge is halfway through his training as a nurse practitioner.

Bell Tower Magazine | Health Education and Human Sciences | Alumni | BT-CurrentOctober 20, 2022

Baldridge Praises Clinical Profs

Donavon Baldridge is a double dipper. No, he isn’t a threat to your salsa; he is a double-degree earner at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2016 and received a bachelor of science degree in Nursing in 2020. 

Baldridge took advantage of the accelerated BSN program, which allows bachelor’s degree holders who have completed prerequisite courses to earn their nursing degree in as little as 15 months.

Baldridge started his college career at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, but when he moved home to Sallisaw, he took some classes at Carl Albert State College in Oklahoma. He finished his degree at UAFS, a decision initially based on the university’s location. 

But in time, he realized UAFS offered more than an easy commute. 

“I always felt like the staff at UAFS was very supportive. I have multiple contacts there if I need them from both degrees,” Baldridge said. 

“In Biology, Dr. (David) McClellan – I could reach out to him right now if I needed something,” he said. 

“When I got to nursing, of course, that is a whole different beast,” Baldridge said. “The courses are hard to start with, and the accelerated program makes them even harder. But it was good for me.”

The challenges came with support. 

“Dr. (Paula) Julian was just as supportive as Dr. McClellan. She works to shape and mold her students into what she believes will make them successful. She was always looking for ways to strengthen the program and always available for questions or anything we needed.”

That support makes UAFS special, Baldrige said. 

“It felt like that wasn’t something I could see in other programs. It sure wasn’t something my friends were bragging about when they talked about their programs.”

Baldridge said the quality of his education has put him in a good position professionally.

Today Baldridge is a cardiovascular nurse at Northeastern Health Systems in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He said his UAFS experience prepared him well.  

“My education has been more than adequate,” he said. “In fact, they made me a preceptor at work; I train new employees in our unit.”

On top of that, Baldridge said he is halfway through his training as a family nurse practitioner at Chamberlain University. 

“I want to go into family practice, not work as an RN, but as a (healthcare) provider,” he said.

“The location of UAFS made it easy for me to get a 4-year degree,” he said. “It’s great for students who want to live at home and earn a bachelor’s degree.

“I’m very happy with the way things turned out. Being a nurse practitioner is a great fit for me,” Baldridge said.