Joan Kircher, DNP, APRN, CRNA: Joany graduated from the Direct Entry Master's Entry in Nursing (MSN) for Non-Nurses: Clinical Nurse Leader program at Rush in 2010. She then went on to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Nurse Anesthesia (CRNA) program and graduated in 2016.
Joany Kircher is a nurse anesthetist that is employed by a private group called Northstar Anesthesia.
What are your thoughts about gaining nursing experience before entering/applying for an advanced practice degree?
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.