Fiona graduated from the Direct Entry Master’s Entry in Nursing (MSN) for Non-Nurses: Clinical Nurse Leader at Rush in 2016 and started the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) program in the Fall of 2018.
Fiona is currently a registered nurse III at Rush Rehabilitation.
What are your thoughts about gaining nursing experience before entering/applying for an advanced practice degree?
I worked as a bedside nurse for close to 2 years before I entered a DNP program. I worked on a unit with a patient population that I am passionate about and with directors who provided me with many opportunities to grow as a nurse and leader. When I considered applying for the DNP program, I felt comfortable with my role as an RN and was interested in taking the next steps to becoming an NP. I felt at this point in my career, I had developed a balance with work and felt confident in my role. I believe gaining nursing experience is so important before applying for an advanced practice degree so you can experience providing the holistic care that we learn in nursing school before you transition into learning about the provider role. If I just wanted to be a provider, then I would have gone to medical school. But instead I wanted and needed to experience that hands on patient care, to be there at the bedside for a whole shift with a patient fighting for their life. There's so much you learn as a health care employee actually working in the field. I also learned a lot about myself and how to communicate effectively with patients and families who are struggling or emotionally challenging. They don't teach you these skills in school. You only gain them after having the first hand experiences.
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 taught me crucial time management skills and an education that was academically rigorous. It is because of these elements that I am successful in my DNP program. I was prepared from the first semester coursework and knew the commitment and level of learning that would be required of me. The time management skills are very important because many of us still work full time or part time and also have to balance personal obligations.
What are your thoughts about the GEM to DNP structure, that is, a strong generalist master's foundation progressing to a specialty doctoral focus?
I like the GEM to DNP structure because it keeps our futures in mind and is preparing us to continue our education. I strongly believe that we are meant to be life-long learners and Rush makes that easy by already building the bridges between programs. It is setting GEM students up for future success.
Describe your favorite aspect of the GEM program.
My favorite aspect of the GEM program was having different lectures come to teach on different subject matters in the core nursing courses that were their primary field. It was great to learn about the cardiac system from someone who works on the CICU and hear those current examples. It made me excited to think about my future career as a nurse and the different experiences I would have. It also helped me focus on my studies knowing that what we were learning was very applicable in the field.