Going back to school as a working adult is never an easy task. For Dolly Greene, embracing the challenge in her 70s was part of her dedication to learning and constantly evolving as a nurse. She graduated from Aspen University’s RN to BSN completion program in 2020, proudly achieving her dream of having the three coveted letters next to her name. Dolly shares her inspiring journey below and how her family’s own story of survival instilled her outlook on the importance of education.
I’m the child of two Holocaust survivors whose lives were completely destroyed by the murders of their entire families. Both of my parents were incarcerated in their teens in the concentration camps, and they managed to survive this horrific episode in world history. I tell you this because, after all they suffered and endured in their lives, they persevered and raised two children to believe in humanity and believe we must learn and contribute to society to make it better than when we found it. My nursing career has given me the opportunity to do just that.
My professional nursing journey has spanned over 50 years. I have been a registered nurse since I was 22 years old. So to help you do the math, I am now 73 years young. I believe I was the oldest graduate of my graduating class from Aspen University, and I am very proud to be at this point. You may be asking yourself, why did she decide to go back to school at this stage of her life when she should be looking at retirement?
Well, I can tell you my educational path has been long and rewarding. I have always valued education, embracing every opportunity that has allowed me to learn and grow both personally and professionally. I decided it was my turn to achieve my dream of furthering my education by obtaining my baccalaureate degree in nursing.
“Learning is a continuous process that should never end, no matter how far you have gone in your education.”
Looking back on my career, I realize the nursing field provided me with a wealth of opportunities. It all started with obtaining my Associate of Arts Degree in Nursing at 22. I then worked for several years in long-term care until I left to be a full-time mother. When our fourth child was 5, I decided it was time to go back and entered home health nursing, and soon after, I worked in hospice care as a case manager of end-of-life patients dying at home. Hospice care was a very challenging yet most gratifying role. But after many years, I moved onto infection prevention and control in nursing home care, an area with great potential and demands. I’ve continued to work in infection control for decades now.
As I transitioned to each new area of practice, I learned many things related to each unique care setting and patient population. I learned about cultural differences in how illness and dying were perceived and managed. How infectious diseases need to be handled outside of the hospital setting. That listening to patients and their families is an essential skill to be an effective nurse. However, I believe the greatest thing I’ve learned throughout my career is that learning never stops.
Aspen has helped me achieve my academic goals through its outstanding online BSN program. I must admit it was a bit overwhelming for someone from the Baby Boomer generation to attempt this type of online learning program. But the amazing advisors and the wonderful professors supported me every step of the way. They encouraged me when I was frustrated and felt like giving up. ‘One step at a time, one module at a time,’ they kept saying. Those three letters, BSN, have been a dream for me, and I’m proud that I got straight As in my coursework.
Since graduating from Aspen, I have more confidence now and have felt like I belong in the infection control circles. There’s nothing like success to make you feel comfortable enough to engage in conversations with physicians and leaders in healthcare. I currently teach infection control in my own business of training nurses in long-term care facilities. I’m also the VP of infection prevention for a large nursing home chain in California, Washington, and Nevada. Additionally, I consult for a national mobile lab and consult private clients in California.
One thing is for sure—I’ll be the poster child (maybe older adult) for encouraging and supporting all nursing students to go for the gold and strive to achieve their highest level of advanced nursing degrees. By embarking on this journey at Aspen, I have accomplished my dream of obtaining this coveted degree. But that’s not the only thing I was able to do. I am the proud grandmother of six grandchildren, one who recently started college, and I believe I’ve set an example for them that you are never too old to learn and reach your dreams.
Never give up and never stop learning! Those are my words of wisdom that I would like to share with my fellow alumni, students, and colleagues. Learning is a continuous process that should never end, no matter how far you have gone in your education. Nursing is a career with endless opportunities for professionals to grow and continue to contribute to the well-being of their communities.