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Helping To Save Lives

Randy James, RN; R. EEG T.
EMR Specialist, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Randy James Profile

Growing up on a farm in Tennessee’s Dickson County, Randy James first learned to rebuild an engine at age 12. While his passion was to become a pilot, he eventually served in the U.S. Air Force for 4 years as a Heavy Equipment Diesel Mechanic. He learned a great deal about engine work – especially the intricacies involved in diagnosing and fixing engine problems. He applies that same level of detail to his work now as a nurse.

“I find that the human body is a whole lot like an engine,” explains James. “It’s not a whole lot different.”

James’ path from mechanic to nurse began when he was a junior in high school and an elderly neighbor called his family for help after she found her husband unconscious in the loft of their barn. James’ father was the Deputy Sheriff of Dickson County. James got there quickly and helped perform CPR.  By the time an ambulance arrived, they had a pulse. James credits this powerful experience as the first time he learned that you can help save a life.

James eventually trained to become an EEG technologist and began working at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1986. He went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing after working on a floor with patients piqued his interest. James worked in several nursing positions before landing a position as EMT Electronic Medical Record at Vanderbilt, where he currently works full-time.

James decided to return to school in 2006 to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through Belmont University’s RN-BSN Adult Degree Program. At the time he earned his RN designation, James said there was no incentive to complete his BSN because it made little to no difference in the pay scale for nurses. “Now, in this competitive market, you need a bachelor’s degree,” says James. “With such a big turnover in nursing, a lot of nurses are trying to get into management. These are good positions with good pay. You just need to make a little investment in your schooling.” Scheduled to graduate in 2010, James says he will continue on to complete his Master of Science Degree in Nursing.

With its flexibility of course scheduling and reputation for producing quality nurses, Belmont’s RN-BSN Adult Degree Program was the only program James applied to when he decided to return to school. “ When I looked at other RN-BSN programs available in Nashville, I saw that I would have had to quit my job when I was ready to complete the nursing courses because evening courses weren’t an option in other programs,” says James.

“Belmont offered the nursing courses with the flexibility I needed to allow me to continue my job and still spend time with my family.  With Belmont, my degree program is self-paced. I can complete my degree as quickly or as slowly as I want to.”

Returning to college as an adult student was daunting at first for James, who said, “I thought I was going to be in class with kids who are the age of my children, but many of the students I take class with are actually my age or older.” Most important to his success as a student – James has maintained a 3.7 grade point average while at Belmont—is the Belmont faculty, he says. “The instructors are exceptionally great and very respectful to adult students. They have great insight into how an adult student learns and they have encouraged me to share some of my professional experiences in class. I didn’t do well in high school, but as an adult, I have a lot more investment as a student .”