AU Profiles – Linda Philbric

STUDENT: Linda Philbric

Athabasca University (AU) is home to an incredibly diverse group of students, alumni, professors, and tutors, each with a fascinating story. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Linda Philbric, an emergency room (ER) nurse and a recent graduate of AU’s Bachelor of Nursing (BN) program. We chatted about distance education, drama in the ER, and her secret to squeezing in time for homework.

Linda Philbric lives in Naples, Florida with her husband, ten-year-old daughter and two dogs. From 2001 to 2006, she was a student in AU’s BN program. Although she grew up in Lethbridge, Alberta, Linda moved to Florida after she obtained her nursing diploma and has worked there as a nurse for fifteen years.

This past April, Linda graduated from AU’s BN program, a program she calls “fabulous.” When she initially began looking at nursing programs, she realized that distance education would be a perfect fit. Linda works full-time nights, which made attending traditional daytime classes complicated. AU’s flexibility made it possible to obtain her degree. Residency wasn’t a problem either. Practicums could be done locally, and other assignments were in case-study form. After transferring credits from her Registered Nurse (RN) diploma, she tackled the remaining program courses two at a time, completing four courses each year for five years. Although she loved the program, Linda admits that her enthusiasm was waning toward the end. “I think I was working on a Bachelor’s in procrastination,” she says, but feels it was all worth it.

One of her most enjoyable experiences, she recalls, was the opportunity to take electives of interest, particularly courses in history and forensic psychology. In fact, Linda still uses material from the forensic psychology course in the ER. “We work with criminals on a fairly regular basis,” she says, “so you kind of know what makes them tick.” She also enjoyed participating in the Nursing Informatics online conference, where she discussed workplace computerization with students from all over North America.

Despite the hectic schedule, Linda discovered how to manage her coursework requirements among work and family obligations. Her strategy was doing course reading and homework whenever, wherever possible. According to Linda, “I wrote papers at work when we were slow, during my daughter’s basketball practice, on holidays, you name it.” She took her books with her everywhere she went. “I studied while waiting in doctor’s offices, in traffic jams, at practice, and at a tournament in Disney World. Everywhere!”

Certainly, she is used to multi-tasking. Linda works full-time as a nurse in the ER of a busy hospital in Naples, and it is anything but dull. Her experiences in the ER would provide enough material for a television series. “I tell everyone that I work in the ER for the entertainment value,” she says. There is certainly drama. Linda and her fellow nurses work with criminals regularly, and although most inmates are well behaved, she has seen police use tasers on patients right next to her. In fact, some ER patients actually request hall beds so they can watch the action unfold. There is comedy, too. The nurses have a saying, “You know you’re an ER nurse if you’ve ever had to leave the room because you were about to laugh in someone’s face.” “Our motto,” Linda says, is “‘Stupidity equals job security.’ You have no idea the things that people come up with.”

In her rare bits of spare time, Linda enjoys reading, playing computer games, and doing cross-stitch. She also loves music. She is a classically trained mezzo-soprano. She plays the piano and flute in addition to singing. In fact, her daughter, as a baby, hated traditional lullabies, and was happiest when Linda sang songs from Phantom of the Opera and other Broadway hits!

Linda’s long-term goal is to become a Nurse Practitioner, an advanced practice nurse. A nurse practitioner can treat, diagnose, and prescribe medication, as well as perform more advanced procedures like gynecological exams. AU’s BN degree is an important stepping-stone to this goal. A Master of Science in Nursing is required before becoming a Nurse Practitioner, and a BN is a prerequisite for the Master’s program. Linda hopes to continue towards this goal by participating in the University of South Alabama’s Masters of Science in Nursing program, specializing in emergency care. It’s another distance program. “I love distance education!” she says. Although the Masters program requires a short weeklong residency, the 500 clinical hours can be done at her hospital in Naples. Generally, the program takes two and a half years to complete.

And after that? Linda will probably begin studying for her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. “My brain,” she says, “runs too fast to be idle for long.”