North Carolina AHEC Program
spring 2014 newsletter | home

Greensboro Nurse Returns to Work Via AHEC

Carol StolwykBelow is a letter that was written to April Schamberg, RN, BA, BSN, nurse refresher and nursing continuing education coordinator at Greensboro AHEC. It tells the success story of Carol Stolwyk (photo right), a nurse who came back to nursing after 20 years by using the AHEC Nurse Refresher Program. The Refresher Program consists of a 24 module self-paced medical-surgical nursing review and a 160-hour clinical practicum. This program is a collaborative effort of the NC AHEC Program, the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing and The William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education.

Dear April,

I hope you are doing well. I have thought of you often and am thankful for the work you do to continue the RN Refresher Program. One year ago, I completed the online coursework required for the RN Refresher Program, and started my clinical experience at Moses Cone. I wanted to share with you what my experience has meant to me, and hopefully encourage other RN Refresher nurses.

One year ago I stepped back into the world of nursing after a 20 year absence. Returning to bedside nursing has been one of the most challenging, and rewarding experiences of my life. I have spent the past 20 years raising and educating 3 children, managing a home and serving in a number of volunteer roles. As the children started high school, I began to consider returning to work as an RN, but was unsure how to do this. After moving to North Carolina, I heard about the RN Refresher Program offered through AHEC and I enrolled.

The online coursework for the Program was very thorough, well written, and engaging. As I completed each module, my confidence began to grow, as I realized “I remember this”, and I was “refreshing” that memory. After completing the modules and tests, I felt prepared to start my clinical experience. My attitude was that of a learner. I wanted to build on the knowledge I had just “refreshed” and put it into clinical practice, observing and learning as much as I could along the way.

I am very thankful for my clinical experience with Meredith Lineback on the orthopedic unit at Moses Cone Hospital. The first few days felt overwhelming; jumping back into a world I had not been in for 20 years.  Meredith and the other nurses encouraged, and helped me along the way. I felt the freedom to ease into the clinical experience, but also the encouragement of “you can do this” and “you are doing this” from other nurses I was working with. I will never forget the experience of successfully starting an IV on the first try, after not having done it for 20 years-celebration and congratulations from all the staff. My confidence, my skills, my critical thinking and organization grew with each 12-hour shift. At the conclusion of  my clinical experience, I felt confident I could return to bedside nursing. I knew I still had much to learn and “refresh”, but I was sure I could do it. 

I am thankful for the support Cone Health has shown for RN Refreshers in providing clinical experiences and employment opportunities. I am also thankful for my Director, who took a risk, invited me to be a part of her team, and opened the door for the next learning opportunity for me.  I was hired as an RN on a Med-Surg unit. The most significant changes I have noticed working as an RN 20 years later are the number of different and new medications, documentation on the computer, and 12 hour shifts. These have all taken time to learn and get used to, but now are a normal part of being a nurse. Having returned to an area of nursing that I had prior experience, the other aspects of caring for med/surg patients has not changed much. 

My experience has been very meaningful. I am currently working in an area of prior experience. I am in an environment where I am able to care for people, and with co-workers who respect and care for one another. Daily, I have opportunities to learn and grow as an RN and as a leader, regularly experiencing “refresher” moments. It has taken courage, discipline and humility to successfully complete the RN Refresher Program and begin working (again) as an RN. 

Thank you for your support of the RN Refresher Program. Please let me know if I can help be an encouragement to others in the program.


Carol Stolwyk