story by Van Mitchell, Contributing Writer
Kathy Smith DNP, MSN, RN taught in an accelerated nursing program for years and was a strong advocate to develop one for the University of Central Oklahoma’s Nursing Department.
In Fall of 2020, those efforts paid off with the inaugural Fast Track nursing class.
The Fast Track in Nursing at the University of Central Oklahoma is for students who have earned a traditional bachelor’s degree in another field and would like to change to the profession of nursing. Upon successful completion, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is awarded.
The baccalaureate degree program in nursing and master’s degree program in nursing at the University of Central Oklahoma are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. (story continues below)
“I had actually taught in an accelerated program before for many years every summer because UCO didn’t have nursing classes in the summer,” said Smith, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Fast Track in Nursing University of Central Oklahoma Department of Nursing. “I picked up extra classes during the summers for another college. I really saw value in the second-degree students. I had been asking UCO for a few years in trying to get this program going. It was definitely a labor of love.”
Smith said the Fast Track in Nursing is a hybrid of both online and in-classroom work.
“They finish a lot faster versus our traditional program which is five semesters and takes two-and-a-half years to complete,” she said. “The Fast Track students start in the fall, go to the spring semester with a May intersession, summer, and they do another fall semester and graduate. It is really in about 16 to 17 months.”
Smith said the inaugural class started with 20 students and ended up with 14.
“Enrollment has grown, we doubled the second year, and this fall we are starting with 43 students,” she said. “I am not surprised because I knew there was a need there for more of this in Oklahoma. I am thrilled at the outcome. They (students) love it. The feedback has been really good.”
Chelsea White is a graduate of the inaugural Fast Track class. She previously graduated from UCO with a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership.
White said nursing was something that was always on her mind.
“I have a younger sister who has special needs and spent a significant amount of time in the hospital shortly after she was born, just seeing the relationship that my family formed with the staff at the hospital, and the way the nurses cared for my family and my younger sister, it was something that just really resonated with me,” she said. “It made me want to get involved in the field and be there to help other families.”
White said she thought about pursuing a nursing degree while first attending UCO, but the timing wasn’t right.
“Nursing is something that I always considered when I was doing my first degree, but I was working full-time and I didn’t have the time commitment,” she said. “It just wasn’t the right time for me.”
White worked for a variety of restaurants after graduation with her first degree before deciding to go back to pursue her nursing dream.
“Whenever I went back to nursing school, I was working full-time and was very fortunate to be working for a family friend as a personal assistant, so I got to work my hours around my school commitment,” she said. “It was a long 16-months, and it was tough, but it was doable. It was a good fit and exactly what I needed at the time that I was going back to school.”
White said the UCO nursing faculty was very supportive of her efforts.
“They were very flexible with us, especially since we were the first cohort,” she said. “We got to do a lot of collaborating with the staff. All the professors, including Kathy Smith, were wonderful working with us.”
White started her nursing career as a hospice nurse with Excell Homecare & Hospice, Inc. in Oklahoma City. She recently accepted a new position with Excell as their new Assistant Director of Nursing, where she will help oversee building its hospice team.
White said her two degrees intertwine well for her new position.
“It was my long-term goal to be in a leadership role,” she said. “There are similarities with my restaurant work and nursing. There is a lot of customer service and learning how to work with different types of people and meet their needs.”
For more information about UCO’s nursing programs visit: