From Corrections Officer to Nursing Graduate: Sean McErlane

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From corrections officer to nursing in Charlotte

Still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up? You’re not alone. The average American changes jobs 12 times while in the workforce. Consider Sean McErlane. Sixteen months ago, he was a corrections officer at the Department of Corrections in Anchorage, Alaska. Now, he’s a graduate of our ABSN program in Charlotte. Let’s explore his journey from corrections officer to nursing graduate.

Why Nursing?

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Sean found himself stationed in Alaska while in the military. He spent six years in Anchorage before moving more than 4,000 miles to attend our 16-month ABSN program in Charlotte. Even though our program enrolls students from all over the country, Sean wins the award for traveling the farthest to attend nursing school.

While living in Alaska, Sean attended the University of Alaska Anchorage. He graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. So what made him decide to transition into the nursing profession?

He had thought about becoming an EMT, but changed his mind after talking to the psych nurse he worked with at the Department of Corrections. “My co-worker suggested that I go into nursing because of all the opportunities available in the profession,” says Sean.

Sean’s own personal interactions with nurses further solidified his decision to go into the profession. “When my dad was dying from stage four lung cancer, his hospice nurse was amazing. Her compassion had a major impact on me and my family, helping us get through some tough times.”

Today’s “It” Profession

A lot of people are switching their careers to nursing for reasons that include:

  1. Highest employment levels for this occupation.
  2. Registered nurse employment is expected to grow by 15% between 2016 and 2026, driven in part by increases in health challenges such as chronic diseases and obesity.
  3. Registered nurses earn a decent salary, with a median pay of $70,000 per year. Top paying states for this occupation include California, Hawaii, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Oregon.
  4. Registered nurses can work in any number of practice settings, from hospitals to outpatient clinics to private practices.
  5. Registered nurses can specialize in different areas of practice, from flight nursing to holistic nursing to geriatric nursing.

Why Northeastern?

With family in the Charlotte area, Sean said he only applied to our ABSN program. “I was drawn to the three program start dates a year. Other schools in the area only had one start a year. I felt I had better odds of getting into nursing school at Northeastern.”

Northeastern ABSN Charlotte Student Seacn McErlane
Meet Sean, a 2019 graduate of our 16-month ABSN program in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Making the Move

By choosing nursing as a second career, Sean said he was a little anxious about going back to school. However, Northeastern was able to remove some of that fear by letting him know what to expect and providing a highly structured learning environment.

He also felt reassured when working with his assigned admissions counselor during the application process. “She always kept up with me during the process, taking away a lot of undue stress,” he noted. “She really went out of her way to help me. Given my military background, she looked into local veteran resources that could assist me in the relocation process.”

Navigating Nursing School

Our ABSN program allowed Sean to leverage his criminal justice degree, making his 16-month transition into nursing possible. Over the span of four, full-time semesters, Sean completed a rigorous blend of:

  • Online courses that allowed him to learn the fundamentals of nursing, anytime, anywhere.
  • Nursing labs that gave him a realistic platform for honing his hands-on skills and clinical judgment.
  • Clinical rotations provided him with real-world experience in diverse areas of nursing practice.

During his final semester in the program, he completed his comprehensive nursing practicum in a medical/surgical unit. “Working 12-hour shifts with my preceptor, I got to experience a lot of different diagnoses and ailments.”

Also during this timeframe, Sean completed NCLEX-RN® practice testing administered through Kaplan. He says he knows what he needs to do to study for the nurse licensure exam and feels confident in taking it.

Getting Job Offers

Before he even graduated from our ABSN program, Sean was offered three jobs at CaroMont Health in North Carolina — all contingent upon him passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Given the impact cancer has had on his family, he chose the job offer extended by the facility’s oncology department.

ABSN students working on nursing skills

Is Our ABSN Program Right for You?

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, you meet the basic requirements for our ABSN program. Beyond that, we require you to earn a “C” or better in each of the following prerequisite courses:

  • Microbiology + Lab
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I + Lab
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology II + Lab
  • Introduction to Chemistry + Lab
  • Statistics
  • Social/Behavioral Science (100 level or above)
  • Developmental Psychology (lifespan)
  • Nutrition

To succeed in our ABSN program, you need to do more than just meet the academic requirements. You must also have the time and energy to devote between 40 and 60 hours a week to your nursing education. That’s why we encourage our incoming students to refrain from working while in nursing school. Some students manage OK working part-time, flexible hours. However, most students make nursing school their full-time job.

Student Stats

Last year, 55 students from 13 different states enrolled in our Charlotte-based ABSN program. The most common incoming majors were exercise science (10 students), biology (10 students), and psychology (six students). Other majors represented included accounting, business administration, communications, criminal justice, marketing, sociology, and wildlife and fisheries.

Now What?

Our ABSN program has two enrollment locations (Charlotte, North Carolina, and Burlington, Massachusetts) and three start dates a year (January, May, and September). So, if you’re ready to make a quick transition into the nursing profession, contact our admissions team today!

Get Your Free ABSN Program Guide

Our ABSN program guide includes everything you need to know about the accelerated path to nursing.

Northeastern University ABSN program guide