Now the director of Southeast Missouri State University's four-year nursing program, Ham got the idea for "From LPN to RN: Role Transitions" almost six years ago while teaching in Sikeston at Park College's registered nurse bridge program for licensed practical nurses.
While there were plenty of nursing education textbooks available for both licensed practical nurse and registered nurse programs, there were no textbooks that specifically covered the gap between the two.
"We were trying to take the LPNs and in one year's time educate them to the level of RNs," said Ham. "I found a need for a book to address the differences between the LPN and RN roles." In addition to the advanced training and skills required of RNs, there are other aspects such as leadership responsibilities, Ham explained.
Ham said she enjoys reading and always did well in English classes, but she always knew she wanted to be a nurse. "I never saw myself writing a book."
Nevertheless, soon after realizing the need for the textbook, she contacted Mosby Publishing Company of St. Louis, a major publisher of scientific and healthcare textbooks.
Mosby advised her to submit a proposal for the book along with a couple of chapters and a table of contents. "The proposal was to explain why it would be worth their time to invest in this," said Ham.
During the time Ham wrote the first two chapters and her proposal, Mosby merged with Saunders, another major healthcare textbook publisher, so her proposal and initial work were sent of Saunders' headquarters in Philadelphia once she completed them.
The director of Saunders' nursing publishing division, Terri Wood, had already recognized the need for the book Ham had in mind. "They actually had been getting requests," said Ham. "She was very excited and wanted to talk to me about a contract."
As she worked with Wood, Ham gained confidence in her project. "I felt better," said Ham. "I thought, 'Maybe I'm on the right track here.'"
In April 1999, Ham signed a contract promising the rest of the book by Oct. 1, 2000. "They wanted it sooner," said Ham. Ham, however, was also working on her doctorate degree.
With support from her family, she managed to stay on top of both projects. "It took a lot of organizational skills," Ham recalled. "But I felt like this was a chance of a lifetime and I needed to grab it while it was there, so I did."
By summer of 2001, Ham received and approved final editorial changes, page proofs, and illustrations that appear throughout the 250-page book.
During this time she also wrote an instructor's manual with test questions to go along with the text.
The book was published in August 2001 but faculties typically make textbook decisions in spring, so marketing efforts were geared toward the coming academic year.
Ham said it appears there is an interest nationwide as 1,500 copies were already shipped out as of January and some schools have already decided to use her book for their programs.
Overall, Ham said she enjoyed the project and may consider doing additional nursing education-related books in the future.
"It was a very good experience for me. It taught me to be more self disciplined," she said. "I saw that if I worked at something hard enough I could accomplish it. You should never tell yourself you can't do something."