Shown in photo (L-to-R) Kendra Strenth and Kim Rawson earned doctorate degrees recently. Pictured in classroom Thursday July 12, 2012. (Press-Register/Victor Calhoun).
July 16, 2012 by Renee Busby, Press-Register Mobile, Alabama – Kim Rawson and Kendra Strenth have each spent 20 years teaching nursing. In 2010, the colleagues at Bishop State Community College took on another role in the classroom — they became students. That January, they enrolled at the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing at Samford University in Birmingham. In May this year, Rawson, 55, and Strenth, 47, earned doctorates in nursing practice administration and education. For two years, between teaching and grading papers and making treks to Birmingham, the friends spent late nights studying. Most of the class was online, but once every 15 weeks they had to travel to Birmingham for about a week of classroom time. "Ironically, I had made the statement I would never go back to school again," said Rawson, who is Bishop State's director of nursing. She changed her mind when Samford faculty made a recruiting trip to Mobile. Rawson was impressed to see what the school offered. Also attractive was the financial aid that she could receive. "I think it was the right time," said Rawson, whose two daughters were grown. Rawson encouraged Strenth to consider going back to school with her. They rode to Birmingham together and lifted each other's spirits when things sometimes seemed overwhelming. They called it the "buddy system." "She was my biggest motivator," said Strenth, a faculty member at Bishop. The week of graduation, each makes a project presentation. Rawson's paper was on helping new nurses survive in a climate of public incivility. Strenth's project topic was the lack of caring in nursing. Before coming to Bishop State, Rawson earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, followed by a 12-year stint working at Mobile Infirmary. Strenth received a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of South Alabama and a master's from the University of Mobile. Strenth then went to work in the psychiatric unit at Providence Hospital. Rawson said people constantly asked her why she wanted to go back to school at her age and what she was going to do with her degree. But Rawson said that earning a doctorate "opens a lot of opportunities" for her and has also "benefited me for my current job." She said that her deeper knowledge is important for Bishop State and for her students. Strenth said it's something that she wanted to do and "it's increased my awareness of what's going on in nursing." While in school, Rawson, Strenth and other doctoral students in the Mobile area would meet on Sunday afternoons for group projects. For those who couldn't meet in person they would Skype on the Internet. On their trips back from Birmingham to Mobile, Rawson and Strenth would study aloud and quiz each other on what they had learned that week in class. Strenth said that there was a time early on when she thought about quitting. She said it was after the first orientation at Samford and she became ill. "It was overwhelming," she recalled. But Rawson refused to let her drop out, she said, and encouraged her to keep going. In the end, the late hours and long treks to Birmingham were worth it, Rawson said. "When I look back on it I knew I could do it, but I can't believe how fast it went by," she said. © 2012, Mobile, Ala. © 2012 Press-Register, Mobile, Ala. All rights reserved. Used with permission of The Press Register

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