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UA Little Rock Graduate Gets Second Chance at Nursing Career

Brittney Harding
Brittney Harding will be graduating in Spring 2022 with a nursing degree. Photo by Ben Krain.

Brittney Harding has wanted to become a nurse ever since she was a little girl. She grew up watching her mother become a nurse and even attended some of her classes as a child.

“The moment when my mother passed her final exam, I had this sense of wanting to be like my mom when I grew up,” Harding said. “I remember the rewards she got from being a nurse, and that was an inspiration as well as my mom’s stepmom, who was also a nurse. Having that foundation of nurses in my family secured my desire to be a nurse when I was a little girl.”

Harding, a native of Warren who now lives in Little Rock, will graduate May 14 with her associate degree in nursing.

The unusual part of Harding’s journey to become a nurse is that she already has several college degrees in education. She first took a stab at nursing school right after high school, but that didn’t work out.

“When I attempted nursing school before, I was not focused,” Harding said. “I didn’t know how to study. It wasn’t God’s time for me to obtain that part of my education. It made me shy away from nursing, so I ended up going and getting my education degrees.”

Harding earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in physical education and coaching from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Later on, she even went back to earn a second master’s degree in teaching. She spent five years working as a secondary education teacher, which she greatly enjoyed, but she never gave up on her dream of becoming a nurse.

“My students really helped give me that last nudge to get back to my goals,” she said. “For five years, I told my students to go after your dreams. After telling them this, I felt like a hypocrite because I wanted to be a nurse. How can I be a good example for them when I am not living what I tell them?”

In 2021, Harding finally entered UA Little Rock’s nursing program, a long-held goal that she put on a vision board she created in 2020 when she was seriously considering going back to school.

Brittney Harding's vision board
Brittney Harding’s vision board

“That is one of the universities I’ve always wanted to attend even before I graduated from high school,” Harding said. “Once I finished my education at UAM, I did my research on nursing programs. UA Little Rock stood out to me because of their simulation lab. It’s basically state of the art compared to any other school or university. I even put it on my vision board to go to the RN program at UA Little Rock. I knew I already loved UA Little Rock. It felt like home.

It’s been a rewarding experience even though it’s been challenging. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Even compared to grad school, this is the hardest program I’ve ever done. They really challenge you to get you prepared for nursing.”

At UA Little Rock, Harding is thankful that a majority of her associate degree was paid for through the Willard and Pat Walker Scholarship from UA Little Rock, the Faith A. Fields Scholarship from the Arkansas Board of Nursing, and a one-time Sigma Chi Chi Chapter of Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc. scholarship.

Harding said graduating with her nursing degree has given her a sense of redemption.

“I failed out of nursing school before, so I felt the weight of completing this degree,” she said. “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Compared to any other degree I’ve obtained, this is the most significant degree I’ll ever receive.”

After graduation, Harding will prepare to take her exam to become a registered nurse over the summer. She’ll also begin UA Little Rock’s online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in the fall and start work as a registered nurse at Baptist Health Medical Center. Eventually, Harding would like to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice and specialize in psychiatric nursing.

“Other than God, my parents have been my greatest support system,” Harding said. “I can’t thank my parents enough for their sacrifices for me to better myself and get where I need to be.”