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Committed to Caring: Meet Kristian Kirkland, Online RN-BSN Graduate and Registered Nurse


Kristian Kirkland

eMajor '20 Graduate Feature
Columbus State University
Bachelor of Science in Nursing

In the last few months, Kristian Kirkland, a Columbus State University RN-BSN 2020 graduate from the eMajor program, quickly found himself tackling unprecedented challenges and conducting virus tests daily. In October 2019, Kirkland accepted a position at the Coffee County Health Department as a public health registered nurse under the Southeast Health District in Waycross, Georgia, which services over 16 counties. 

Worldwide, healthcare professionals have stepped up by answering the call to serve and fight the Coronavirus pandemic with limited resources and time to prepare. “My main priority is COVID-19 right now,'' said Kirkland. “When I’m out in the field, I am swabbing patients that come for testing, which is my way of trying to do good in the world.” He had no idea that his responsibilities would significantly increase and shift as soon as they did.

The Only Male Nurse

Kirkland is the only male nurse in the Southeast Health District, which covers 16 counties in Southeast Georgia. He said there was much excitement from the search committee when he first interviewed. “It was important for me to be my true self and be in a place where I could do so comfortably, said Kirkland.” I wanted something that was different, flexible, meaningful. The state has excellent benefits. The community aspect drew me in because you are seeing diverse age groups. “Being the only male in my district means that I bring a different perspective to public health. My colleagues come to me regularly for advice.” 

Kirkland's love for crime scene investigation and microbiology in college is what led him to pursue a career in nursing. He believes he has the best of both worlds when tending to sexually transmitted diseases, where he can look under microscopes and identify the different aspects. 

As an extreme extrovert, Kirkland has found his job working closely with people to serve as an outlet from the nuances of isolation in quarantine. In his position, Kirkland is also responsible for data entry, where he manages patient demographics by collecting each patient's personal information. This work is meaningful to his department because it allows them to better understand the needs of their patients and communicate with them.

A Focus on Families

One of his most enjoyable tasks is supporting new mothers and children through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which helps acquire supplemental foods and healthcare. “I’m passionate about making sure that the babies are getting the correct amount of nutrients in their formula and that the mamas are taking proper care of themselves too, said Kirkland.” WIC vouchers and acquiring formulas can sometimes feel complicated, which is why Kirkland is committed to doing all that he can to educate his clients.

Kirkland is passionate about community disease prevention and support because it makes him feel like he is doing something more significant than himself. “It’s not my job to judge people, said Kirkland.” “It’s my job to serve them. My patients have ranged from doctors to teachers, to service members, to homeless people, etc. Everyone has a story and a purpose. It’s my job to find out what everyone’s story is.” This work means assisting with serious illnesses, such as Tuberculosis cases when they arise. “Ensuring my community is being the healthiest that it can be by educating others on the importance of health is everything to me,” said Kirkland. "My colleagues share the same perspective, and because of that shared mindset, we can work effectively together to get things done."

When Work Doesn't Feel Like Work

Community outreach has provided Kirkland with the opportunity to return to his former schools, neighborhoods, and several other areas to conduct flu shots, scoliosis screening, and even set up shelters during hurricane season. Work doesn’t always feel like work for him because of the high levels of social interaction. His current schedule allows him to visit the community three to five times per week, which Kirkland sees as a win-win situation because he gets to see people he knows. 


While attending college part-time in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree at Columbus State University, Kirkland also worked full-time in the nursing field. He often found himself having to be creative in navigating his responsibilities at work, school, and personal life at home. “To be successful in my program and at work, I found that logging into my classes every day allowed me to hold myself accountable and stay on track,” Kirkland explained. “I also had to communicate with my family members when I was going to be taking tests or studying and couldn’t be disturbed.” Kirkland believes that online learning is not hard. “It simply requires time and discipline. It’s doable. If I can do it, anyone can.” As a registered nurse today, his go-to statement is “Work smarter, not harder.” When he doesn’t know the answer to something, Kirkland does not hesitate to ask another nurse. “I can not afford, nor do I want to put a patient in danger because I don’t know something,” said Kirkland.

Kirkland shared that his father, who he sees as the leader of his family, is his inspiration for striving for success. “My dad lost both of his parents within a three-month span in his 20s, and because he was the oldest of five children, he had to take care of everyone, he said.” Kirkland believes that his dad’s determination in securing a good job, compassion towards all of his family, and faith as a Christian has served as guidance for him today.

A Degree for Advancement

“My RN-BSN degree will open up the door for more leadership opportunities, including nurse supervisor, nurse manager, program manager, or an administrative position in the nursing office. “I am hopeful that now that I have obtained a bachelor’s degree, my career opportunities will expand to include more hands-on experience, leadership positions, and increased pay.”  “I’ve learned how to lead and how to be led through my experience as a student and professional,” said Kirkland. He believes that working closely with health care leaders has opened his eyes to what it will take to become a leader within his district.

Now that Kirkland has graduated, he is looking forward to catching up with family and friends at the beach, enjoying college sporting events (when they are back up and running), and allocating more time to crossfit.

Kirkland stumbled upon the CSU RN-BSN after completing two associate degree programs. He was eager to begin once he realized that he could take classes from home on his own time at an affordable rate, and would not be required to take any additional prerequisite courses. “It quickly made sense for me to go ahead and finish up my studies with CSU because most healthcare facilities are now selecting nurses who hold a BSN over those who do not,” said Kirkland.

Media Contact: 
Katie Black, kblack@ecampus.usg.edu

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