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Hear From GEM Alumni About Their Current Nursing Position While on Their Path to an Advanced Practice DNP Degree
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Below are the thoughts and opinions of four direct entry master's (MSN) for non-nurses: generalist entry master's (GEM) clinical nurse leader (CNL) graduates and their impression of Rush's GEM program. They are able to give unique insights into the benefits of starting your nursing career at a master's level and then progressing to an advanced practice DNP program. Please read what our alumni have to say about the GEM program, what they are currently doing and their future plans. 

 Jenna Pederson, MSN, RN

Jenna graduated from the direct entry master's (MSN) for non-nurses: generalist entry master's (GEM) clinical nurse leader (CNL) program at Rush in 2011 and will be starting the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) family nurse practitioner (FNP) program in the Fall of 2013. Jenna is a nurse in the emergency department at Rush University Medical Center.

Read more about Jenna's experience

 

Adam Spurlock, MSN, RN, CNL 

Adam graduated from the direct entry master's (MSN) for non-nurses: generalist entry master's (GEM) clinical nurse leader (CNL) program at Rush in 2010 and started the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) program in the Fall of 2012. Adam is a nurse in the emergency department at Rush Oak Park Hospital.

 Read more about Adam's experience

 

Cristina Dovalina, MSN, RN

Cristina graduated from the direct entry master's (MSN) for non-nurses: generalist entry master's (GEM) clinical nurse leader (CNL) program at Rush in 2011 and will be starting the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) family nurse practitioner (FNP) program in the Fall of 2013. Cristina is a nurse on the Neuroscience Unit (12 West Tower) at Rush University Medical Center.

 

Joany Kircher, MSN, RN

Joany graduated from the direct entry master's (MSN) for non-nurses: generalist entry master's (GEM) clinical nurse leader (CNL) program at Rush in 2010 and started the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) nurse anesthesia (CNRA) program in the Fall of 2012. Joany is a surgical intensive care nurse at the University of Chicago.

 Read more about Joany's experience

 
 
 

 
I am very appreciative of the nursing experience I have had prior to applying for and starting an advanced practice degree program. After graduating with my entry-level nursing degree, working helped engrain clinical principles into my practice. All of the medical information that was challenging during nursing school has become second nature. As a nurse, I’m better able to adapt my care to the type of patient that I am assigned. Working has allowed me to learn how to connect with all types of patients.
 
What were important elements in your GEM program that you believe prepare you to succeed at a high level in an advanced practice program?
  • The GEM program treats you as a graduate level student and effectively prepares you to continue your education. I feel that the Rush faculty helped me become an increasingly responsible and independent learner. As a GEM graduate, I was educated to be a competent novice nurse. However, I was also educated to ask questions and find the answers to all the types of clinical questions.
What are your thoughts about the GEM to DNP structure, that is, a strong generalist master's foundation progressing to a specialty doctoral focus?
  • Gaining my GEM nursing degree prior to pursuing my advance practice degree has made a huge difference in my nursing career. Working has helped me fine tune my clinical preferences and has changed my ideas on what type of nurse I would like to be. If I didn’t have nursing experience, I would have blindly chosen an entirely different advance practice degree. Now that I have worked, I know what type of patients I want to care for throughout my career. I am more confident that I am choosing the correct advance practice degree program [FNP].
Describe your favorite aspect of the GEM program.
  • The Rush community was a pleasant surprise. During my undergraduate education, I actually appreciated “just being a number” at a very large university. However, I found the opposite to be true of my graduate education. I found the smaller cohort sizes at Rush to be very beneficial. In the GEM program, I was able to explore a wide variety of volunteer opportunities and research projects. I forged many wonderful professional relationships with faculty members. The Rush faculty were excellent mentors and were very helpful in bridging the gap between the classroom and clinical practice.

 
Having been employed as a staff RN prior to pursuing my DNP allowed me to gain perspective on what it means to be a nurse and what will be expected of me upon graduation as an acute-care nurse practitioner. Without this experience, knowledge about interdisciplinary practice would remain foreign, in addition to real world patient care.
 
 
 
 
What were important elements in your GEM program that you believe prepare you to succeed at a high level in an advanced practice program?                 
  • I believe the GEM program adequately provided a base of knowledge that allowed me to function appropriately and without fear in my nursing practice. Being I work in a specialized department (emergency medicine), I was grateful for the opportunity to work as a student in an emergency department for my immersion. The way in which we were instructed at Rush CON has taught me how to approach medicine and patient care, in a way critical thinking manner, which will only aid in my future education as an APN.
What are your thoughts about the GEM to DNP structure, that is, a strong generalist master's foundation progressing to a specialty doctoral focus?
  • During the first three (3) trimesters of the DNP program, my workload is significantly lighter than that of my colleagues, due to having taken some of the current courses in the GEM program. This has allowed for a smooth transition back into school to develop an acceptable work /life balance.
Describe your favorite aspect of the GEM program.
  • My favorite aspect of the GEM program was the interaction with, and accessibility of faculty members. I have never been part of an institution where students are able to stop a faculty member in the halls, or visit them in their offices, and the faculty member stops what they are doing and helps the student through their concerns. I feel that this interaction has allowed me to express myself and my concerns openly, contributing to a greater collegiate experience.

 
Gaining experience is imperative because it allows you to practice all the fundamental skills and values you learn in nursing school. It is important to apply your critical thinking and communication skills, as well as learn to make quick decisions and work with other members of the interdisciplinary team. 
 
 
What were important elements in your GEM program that you believe prepare you to succeed at a high level in an advanced practice program?
  • The GEM program provided me with a broad knowledge base, and allowed me to gain experience in a variety of clinical settings. This enabled me to decide which area of specialty I wanted to pursue for my advanced degree. 
What are your thoughts about the GEM to DNP structure, that is, a strong generalist master's foundation progressing to a specialty doctoral focus?
  • The GEM program is structured in a way as to prepare students to be leaders in any setting they choose to work as an RN. Once you have taken the graduate core courses as a GEM student, you are in a position to move through the DNP program with more fluidity. Another benefit is you can continue to work as an RN and gain valuable experience.
Describe your favorite aspect of the GEM program. 
  • I like the condensed structure of the GEM program, allowing students to achieve an advanced degree in a relatively short amount of time. Also, I like that Rush is a small university that provides a great support system and allows for faculty to know you by name.

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Gaining 'on the job' nursing experience greatly impacts the quality of the provider’s assessment skills and the ability of the nurse to anticipate the next step of the plan of care. Previous clinical experience is a fundamental tool that is used to make appropriate decisions at the bedside. I was surprised at how much I learned after nursing school. My clinical experiences have been a priceless step in my journey towards advanced practice. Medicine is an art, which improves with practice. Ultimately, patient safety is the most important aspect to medical practice and experience helps facilitate that. In addition, I have personally found that my colleagues as well as the institutions that I have worked for highly value the number of years of experience a nurse has, which I believe speaks to the importance of clinical exposure prior to advanced practice nursing.
 
The programs at Rush University are conveniently designed so that students can work as a nurse and go to school at the same time. This is financially beneficial because many employment benefits often cover some percentage or sum of continuing education tuition.
 
What were important elements in your GEM program that you believe prepare you to succeed at a high level in an advanced practice program?
  • I am very proud to be a graduate of Rush University Medical Center. Rush University's reputation is very good and well deserved. I worked hard and studied hard during the GEM program. I learned methods of reviewing the material that allows me to retain the knowledge to use it at the bedside. Succeeding at Rush University and succeeding at doctoral-level education requires determination, dedication and self-discipline. Although, it is challenging at times, the payoff has been worth every bit of it! I am excited about my education and feel privileged to continue my education at Rush University Medical Center.

What are your thoughts about the GEM to DNP structure, that is, a strong generalist master's foundation progressing to a specialty doctoral focus?

  • The GEM program and the DNP program are both academically front-loaded with increasing clinical exposure throughout the program. I have found this structure helpful in learning the material and providing safe care to patients during clinical rotations. My decision to continue my education at Rush University was made simple by the easy transition from the GEM program to any of the DNP specialties. Some of the courses in the GEM program count towards the completion of the doctorate degree. This saves time and money, which made Rush University a great choice for graduates of the GEM program.
Describe your favorite aspect of the GEM program. 
  • Personally, one of my favorite aspects was realizing my own potential to succeed at something very challenging. I also love the comradery that developed during nursing school. Most of my best friends today are the friends I met in nursing school. Overall it was a wonderful experience! I have many fond memories.


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