Class of 2008 Profile: Pastor's Wife, Mother of Five and Full-Time Nurse Finds Time to Earn University of Virginia Degree

May 9, 2008 — Valarie Lynne Morton is a mother with a mission.

Morton, who will graduate May 18 from the University of Virginia School of Nursing, hasn't had many of the typical undergraduate concerns. Beyond classes, she might think during her days about which daughter is making dinner, about how she's had to put off spring cleaning until summer, that she hasn't spent much time on women's ministry in her husband's church.

But the sacrifices will be worth it when she picks up her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Morton, who is 40 and has worked in health care for 20 years, will become a college graduate through an accelerated program in U.Va.'s Nursing School.

A pastor's wife and mother of five from Culpeper, Morton credits God and her own mother with inspiring her to push herself, and her husband and children with supporting her career decisions.

In an early job, she worked at the U.Va. Medical Center as a patient care technician. Now she plans to continue her education and pursue a master's degree in health care administration.

In the Nursing School's flexible RN-to-BSN program, Morton, who received an associate's degree from Blue Ridge Community College in 2002, opted to return to school full-time for two semesters.

When she wasn't taking 24 credit hours of classes this spring, she was working as assistant nurse manager of interventional radiology at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, where she'll continue working. Obtaining her degree, she said, will get her one step closer to meeting the qualifications of a nurse manager.

"Work and school have complemented each other," said Morton. "I could relate to some classes because they paralleled my experiences at work, and I found myself applying at work what I had learned from classes."

Those courses could be held in virtual space or real rooms at the Nursing School's McLeod Hall. One of her favorite teachers was award-winning professor Valentina Brashers, whose pathophysiology class Morton participated in online. She also enjoyed having time in classes with Sharon Utz and Theresa Drought to examine political and contemporary issues of nursing, she said.

Morton also took classes at Northern Virginia and Tidewater community colleges, whose credits would count toward her degree.

One of two daughters raised by a single mother, Morton said her mother "inspired us to shoot for the moon." Likewise, Morton said she is proud of her accomplishments and wants her success to encourage her children. The oldest is a junior at Longwood University, three other daughters are in high school, and her only son is in fifth grade.

In addition, she has managed to continue playing tennis on Saturdays, she said.

She'll take a break from school before returning in January to work on her master's. She said with the extra time, she and her husband might even be able to squeeze in a date.