BSN to MSN, A Student’s Perspective

With special guest online MSN Student Collyn West, this webinar was designed to give current BSN RN’s an understanding of what the online MSN program is like, and the opportunities for career development available with an MSN.

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LaTonya Boyce: Thank you for attending the University of San Francisco’s online BSN to MSN webinar today. My name is LaTonya Boyce, I’m an enrollment advisor her at the University of San Francisco. And we also have Jan Merlano who is also an enrollment advisor here at the University of San Francisco.

Today we’re going to discuss, we have a special guest on the line, one of our students who is active in the program, but we’re also going to go through some of the aspects of the program, as well.

So, with the University of San Francisco’s online BSN to MSN program you get a well-designed learning goal oriented curriculum. There’s three enrollment periods, which includes summer, spring and fall. We’re currently enrolling for the spring 2016 semester. Our rankings and reputation definitely speaks for itself. We are ranked in the top fifty by US News and World Reports; we’re also have experienced faculty members at the University of San Francisco, as well.

So with the USF online MSN degree program, the course work is 100% online with the exception of the practicum. You perform your clinical internship at a work setting that’s close to home, which is very convenient for many of our students. There is no specific log-in times, or lectures. So it is a totally asynchronistic program. And it’s designed for the associates degree and bachelor’s degree nurses. You can complete the program in as few as two years and we are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges also known as WASC; The California Board of Registered Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education also known as CCNE.

This program prepares you for the CNL certification. So with that you are eligible to receive CNL certification prior to graduation. We are one of the few MSN programs approved by the AACN to provide students with specific leadership competencies. These competencies are qualities that executives look for in hiring and promoting staff nurses.

Students who complete the program distinguish themselves as leaders of evidence based care improvement. So with that we want to introduce our special guest Collyn West., Collyn West is an RN and she is a current student in the online MSN program. So, hello Collyn, how are you today?

Collyn West:
I’m good thanks, hello, how are you?

LaTonya Boyce: So, Please Collyn tells us a bit about yourself and your background.

Collyn West: Thank you so much for this opportunity I’m really excited to talk about this program. So I live in Seattle, Washington and I’ve been a nurse now for about ten years. I am currently working as the assistant nurse manager of my unit. And it was time for me to go into a Master’s program; I knew I was ready for it. And I was really kind of torn with going into a more clinical track or a more management type of a focus. And I found the Clinical Nurse Leader program to be really intriguing. Because it gave me the option to continue working in both, it has a lot of leadership components.

And it kind of helps you look at the big picture but still focuses on clinical outcome at the unit level. So I feel like through this program I’m still going to be able to impact patients on my unit and help my nurses to be able to better provide care for patients. I am still working and I am still working full time. And the challenge about my job is that I [Phone Rings], that’s actually a great example, is that I don’t have anyone doing my work when I’m not there. So that is one reason why I was really excited about the University of San Francisco’s program, is the flexibility in the program really works with my life. I am able to see ahead at the semester’s course work and kind of plan my schedule and when I’m able to turn in assignments and when I’m able to spend time on some of the projects.

And I have that whole semester to plan ahead to make sure that my assignments are submitted on time. I also, besides working full time, have two little kids and so although I think it’s probably a good example for them to see what it’s like with me studying in school and kind of how you prioritize things I am able to, like I said, with the flexibility of the classes make sure that I’m at all of the soccer games because I can get my assignments done the day before so that I have that afternoon free. So the flexibility with the program was really what drew me to the University of San Francisco in the first place.

And then, you know as was previously mentioned the program is a great program. It speaks for itself, as far as the level of graduates that they are preparing. It’s very well highly looked at, as far as their program. And besides, you know the flexibility there’s a lot of resources out there. They really make you feel like you are still a part of the school. So I have instructors checking in on me and I have people in the program calling and checking in on me. And there are session opportunities for you to get to know your instructor and kind of be online with them. And we do some group work that you can also schedule with your own time. But it’s still really nice because I actually still feel like I have classmates in the program, although we’re all over the country. We text each other and we email each other and we work together and kind of check in on each other and say “oh my gosh, have you taken these quizzes yet, and did you have a hard time with this?” and so I don’t really feel as siloed as I thought that I would in an online program. So that’s kind of what drove me towards this field and this school for this field.

LaTonya Boyce: That’s excellent Collyn; you know it definitely sounds like many of the aspects of the program work for flexibility and work for your life. So I know you answered why you chose an online MSN program, so upon graduation from this program, seeing that you’re an out of state student why did you choose the University of San Francisco instead of a local program?

Collyn West: Well, one big part of it was the flexibility; I didn’t want to commit to going and sitting in a classroom for an evening or a few evenings every week. I actually looked at programs all over the country. Online and local, there’s actually one in Seattle, which is where I live. But it did require class time and then the clinicals were actually a little bit more rigid. I work for the VA and so my plan is to stay with the VA and although I think that you can gain a lot of experience going to other facilities to see what they look like, I really wanted my clinicals here and I was able to do that through the University of San Francisco.

Instead of being placed into a clinical in a local facility. Also the other schools that I looked at they either required you to visit the school a few times throughout the program, which I couldn’t commit to financially and then once again that poses other challenges with my schedule. Or they required additional testing or the programs were longer. There were quite a few reasons why this program was just a really good fit for me. And also one thing, working for the government they don’t take it lightly where you get your degree. If it’s not accredited you can’t get hired here. And the University of San Francisco was accredited at the National and at the state Level. So it was accepted by the VA. And one of the nurses on my unit is actually started the program now. So I can kind of help her get through it. And learn the technology, out facility was actually impressed with the program, so they’re really excited.

LaTonya Boyce: That’s excellent, so that’s great that the VA is really excited about that. I know that they highly utilize the CNL as a component upon graduation from the program. I just want to give one quick friendly reminder to everyone attending the event today. We will have the opportunity to answer questions at the end of the presentation. So if you have any questions please be sure to type them into the Q&A box on the top left hand of your screen. We will answer as many questions at the end of the presentation as time will permit.

So Collyn, how have you found support from faculty and your advisor? I know you touched on that briefly, can you expand on that a bit more, about the support level with your advisor and the faculty members?

Collyn west: Oh, definitely my advisor, I actually was really shocked the first time I got a phone call and they said “we just want to check in with you and see how the program was going” I kind of was like ok, I’m good. It really was, I thought a very nice personal touch and it was really kind of nice. And they’ve continued to check in on me. I get emails and phone calls checking in on me periodically, saying “you know just checking to see if you need anything, give us a call”. And the faculty has all actually been really good to work with. I think because it is an online program, one of my instructors right now she is actually overseas, I think she said she was in the UK.

And so she is continuing to work over there and they’ve actually made themselves very readily available to the students. So they have given out, you know phone numbers where you can reach them, they set up these sessions where you can log-in and do kind of a face-to-face time, and ask them any questions that you may have. I think because you’re not actually there, they are almost in a way easier to get a hold of, because they don’t just have office hours during a certain time, where you would have to go in to see them.

They’ve been very supportive and every one of them so far and I’m sorry I guess you don’t all know. So I’m in the fifth semester so I have one semester left. So I’ve completed four semesters already, which I can’t actually believe how fast it’s gone by but so far, I’ve done the majority of the program, all these instructors have been really good about making sure that they are available to the students. And then also they’re really good as well about communicating if you had a pre-planned vacation or there’s been people who have had babies or have gotten married, or it’s our ten year anniversary we have a trip planned, if you let them know that you’re assignments may be a little bit late, they’ve been really willing to work with the different students on that. So I’ve actually felt extremely supported, especially for being two states away.

LaTonya Boyce: That’s excellent I know that’s really important to those who don’t live in the same state, to make sure that they have that outreach and those resources available. So that’s excellent that you have had a lot of different ways to contact your advisors and faculty members have been extremely supportive. So I know that, you know in comparison you can think about going to campus and actually comparing that to online. How have you found the online learning environment?

Collyn West: Well, you know I was worried, and I’m sure a lot of people that are calling in for this are worried as well. I was nervous about how the technology would work. I don’t’ have a very, you know fancy computer at home and I was worried about being able to keep up on things, but the online learning environment, so far has been really good. Like I’ve said over and over it’s worked really well with my schedule, with kids and with work. And I can sort of check in when, you know I’m sitting at soccer practice in my car.

The technology has been extremely amazing. So there’s, I mean I can use my phone, my school calendar will actually sync up with just my regular Hotmail account or I guess it’s probably though Gmail, that calendar will sync up with my calendar. And the type of software and program that’s used online has really made it easy to communicate with my other classmates. So a lot of our assignments are sort of posting your assignment and then replying on other people’s assignments. And you get a really good conversation going. I’ve learned a lot from other people that I didn’t realize you know how different every hospital is. We have a lot of big hospitals in Seattle.

There’s a lot of people in smaller communities and talking about the resources that they have has been really interesting. I’ve really enjoyed the diversity of all the students and kind of learning from everybody. I’ve taken away a lot of really good pointers and I’ve brought a lot or really good things back to my own work environment already that I’ve gotten from other students that work in a different hospital environment. So bringing in that unique perspective has been really neat as far as online learning environment.

LaTonya Boyce: That’s great, so as far as thinking about a major, when you thought about going back to school. Why did you choose the Clinical Nurse Leader focus?

Collyn West: well you know that’s a really good question. So I’ve been a nurse for ten years, and I knew as soon as I was done with nursing school that I wanted to go back and I’m actually kind of right now looking ahead, to see what the next thing is. I love school. But I was really torn; you know being the assistant nurse manager there’s some parts about being in management that I really like. But I am just not ready to give up the clinical part yet. And so when I was looking at different degrees, you know I had looked and I think everyone had said, well be a nurse practitioner. But the problem with that is then that really narrows kind of where you can go with it, not anything against the nurse practitioner. But for me personally I didn’t want to be tied to that role for the rest of my career. And so I kind of wanted something that had leadership you could go into management with it if you decided but didn’t completely take me out of clinical right now as well. And with the clinical nurse leader program, like I said a little bit, you are a resource for your coworkers to make sure that they are able to improve care for their patients, so you’re able to impact a whole group of patients, a whole cohort or unit.

And although it is a degree where you work on the micro system I think by impacting your microsystem you get involved with the macro system. So you start looking kind of at the big picture of your facility. And one of the things I’ve actually done on my unit since I started this program. Is a unit based counsel where I’m trying to put some of the decision making for the unit back into the nurses hands and kind of seeing how we can improve patient outcomes by having them be accountable and have a little bit more ownership through that process. And since we’ve done that we actually have started the trend where other units are starting unit based councils and they are coming to ours to see how we’re doing it. And I just really liked that idea of being able to still impact, you know kind of have a more direct impact on patient care. But do it by impacting all the patients on my unit by helping the staff on my unit. It was just kind of the perfect degree for me where I didn’t want to; you know go one direction with my nursing career. I still wanted to have a lot of opportunities and I think with this program, I really will still have a lot of opportunities. And I think so now even more when I’m almost done with the program because, you know when you’re looking at the program and you’re looking at the list of classes it seems kind of vague or maybe that they don’t’ really all go together. But now that I’ve done a lot of them, they really do. They really blend together nicely and build on top of each other where I really feel like I’m still learning new evidence based practice in addition to leadership and being a change agent. And you know right now is a big one, how to write a business plan, why would I ever want to learn that? Well it actually, nurses need to know that so that we can kind of help justify what is going on in our facility and where the funds are being spent. So that was kind of some of the things I took into consideration for me, when I was looking at this. I still have a lot of years left of nursing so I wanted to make sure I had a lot of options still with my future and my career.

LaTonya Boyce: Excellent. So I know you said you’ve utilized some of the aspects of the program, like give me us, have there been things you’ve learned in this CNL program, that you’ve already used, specifically. Like when you think about one of the courses you’ve taken, and you took that information directly to where you work and utilized that, how did that occur?

Collyn West: oh I can’t even begin to count how many times, that there’ve been things in the CNL program that I’ve been using in my job. So you know I think one of the challenges with being in the current role that I’m in, as the Assistant Nurse Manager, is you kind of get put into these projects. You get put into, you know we’re going to put you into this rapid process improvement work group, and you’re like ok. And you know I show up and I just kind of follow along with what the facilitator is doing and then in the end I feel like, you know well maybe we’ve improved a process.

But going through the program, they actually kind of gave me a lot of the background of why we do things, like the different change theories and how you can try to implement change in your unit by utilizing these different change theories depending on what the change is that you’re working on. Or how you can solicit input and buy in from staff and kind of the categories of where the staff will fall as far as where they are most likely want to embrace change and the area. That’s probably one of them that’s been the biggest for me is that with what I’ve learned I’ve really tried to go to the staff to see what it is that I can help them do to help them accept the change. Before it would be like, here’s a new policy, here’s a new process start doing this start doing your new documentation now.

And then when they weren’t doing it I would sit there and go well I sent you the email why didn’t you make the change. And so now this program has kind of helped me fill in the gaps with a lot of that stuff, with how to get buy in from staff, and how to implement change that will stick. So that’s probably with my current role a lot of stuff that I’ve already been, and then like I said we’ve already started a unit based council on my unit. And I’ve gotten ideas from people in the program about, even just small things, like implementing coverage for lunch breaks. We didn’t really have a good process for that, before. And somebody wrote a post on how they kind of helped their staff insure that there is coverage during lunch breaks to have a smooth transition of patient care and prevent, you know any untoward reactions during that time frame. And you’re just kind of reading each other’s post and you’re like wow that’s a great idea. Now I’m kind of embarrassed that I never thought about that before. And so that has really been a great piece of this whole program with bringing things in. you know and one thing that’s kind of interesting working for the VA, they have their own program called VA Tamix which is one way to implement change. And I was actually in a VA Tamix training reading about the next assignment that I had for school which was on implementing change so I was actually in a two day training at my work learning about what I was going to be writing the post on, for my school assignment. So I couldn’t believe how well they mesh together at that time. You know that one day was perfect timing.

But I have actually, I think that’s one thing about having a current job that has been great, is that when I’m doing these assignments I can talk from, you know real life experiences and that makes the whole thing so much easier. Because it comes out so much more and it kind of helps put the pieces together. Yesterday I wrote a post on working with one of the utilization review nurses and I was like, oh my gosh I have an example of this. I just never really thought about how we needed each other as much as part of the team but I can talk about this as an example and now as a CNL how I will use them, you know I’ll be even better prepared.

LaTonya Boyce: That’s excellent Collyn, so it definitely sounds like you’ve been able to utilize many of the aspects of the program in your current role. So seeing that you have that continued education aspect, this question is twofold. How important do you feel it is for RNs to advance their education and also how do you feel that the lack of continuing education affects integration today for our RNs in today’s nursing world?

Collyn West: Well you know I’ve said that I’m already kind of looking ahead. I really think that advancing your education is extremely important. Especially as a nurse, I think that if you think you’re done learning then you have gone into the wrong field and you might want to look into something else. Things are changing, health care is changing, evidence based practice is changing as new evidence is coming out and I think that the role of nursing is also changing. It’s really important to continue learning so that you can continue to stay up to date with things. Especially as the nursing role is progressing. I think that if you and you know I want to be cautious saying that, because I do believe that we need nurses that want to just be nurses and not go back to school and a lot of times the programs pull you away from the bedside we do need those nurses at the bedside. But I do think that you can find programs like this that will advance your knowledge base and keep you at the bedside. And I think that that will be the way that nursing kind of continues to build what the nursing role is and how our impact is in healthcare and you know how we can continue to improve care for the patients. Keeping yourself up to date with everything and you know continuing that education I think is very important.

LaTonya Boyce: That’s excellent that you sound very committed to, you know the continuing education which seems to be so important in the nursing profession. So you know balancing your work life and family and everything approximately how much time each week do you commit to studying? Well last semester was probably the peek time that I spent studying and that’s because I had advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology, which I loved the class. I learned a lot and I loved that pathophysiology stuff but it was more time consuming. I think that honestly the recommendation that they give you in each syllabus talks about the number of credits per class and how much time that takes, is really a pretty good guesstimate.

Some people will probably be a little bit quicker and some people will probably take a little bit more time, but currently I’m taking three classes. I have a clinical class, epidemiology and population statistics and then the financial resource management class and I’m probably spending maybe on average about four hours a week. So last night when my husband sat down and was watching his TV show I sat down and did an assignment which took me about a half an hour and so I will kind of build in that time throughout the week. There will be some days where I spend more time, and then other days where I spend less time. But I’ll go back to what I said. If you plan ahead and you look at what assignments are due, and dedicate time and you have it. Then you should really be ok.

LaTonya Boyce:
That’s excellent so I know you spoke about the career goals once you graduate or we touched on that. What specifically would you like to do upon graduation? What is that five year plan look like for you?

Collyn West: Well that’s a great question, so I’ll be staying with the VA. As crazy as the VA can be I actually I love working here. So I’m really excited to be the first CNL to graduate from the CNL, well I will be the first CNL to graduate from the CNL program in my facility. So I’m really looking forward to kind of developing the role here. And helping other nurses as they go back to school. I’m thinking that I probably will want to work on my unit, for a few years as a CNL and then go work for education and kind of help improve and build out education department. So that I am able to help nurses throughout the facility. Maybe if you’re not ready to go back to school but continuing education is really important so providing in-services and providing training and stuff like that that I can get to everybody to make sure that our patients are receiving the most up to date care. And then you know somebody posted a school assignment talking about how they working in their facility they are a director for nursing research and education and I thought wow, that sounds like a really good goal, I like that job title, so I’m thinking big, maybe that’s like a ten or fifteen year plan. But you know the next few years, I just want to work as a CNL and make improvement in patient care outcomes on my unit and then I’m thinking towards education. And eventually go back to teaching.

LaTonya Boyce: Excellent, thank you so much for sharing that, your career goals. So do you have any final advice for BSN RNs that are thinking about undertaking an online MSN CNL program with the University of San Francisco?

Collyn West: Well, you know it’s kind of one of those things where its never going to be the perfect time. But you just have to get as many of your ducks in a row as you can. And then just jump in with both feet. And if you’re ready and you’re at that point this is a really good program to go into. The IT staff are very helpful if you have computer challenges. The library staff make going and using the library resources very user friendly. There’s a lot of support out there which I do think you’ll find more so in an online program. Especially one as set-up for it as the University of San Francisco’s program is. And you know there’s no better time than the present. So I just think it’s been a great experience for me. I have zero regrets for going into it. So I just hope other people have the same experience as I did.

LaTonya Boyce:
Excellent, so thank you so much for that information, Collyn definitely think that you are one that really understands and is really onboard with the CNL and I love that. So really quickly I want to say that if we are unable to answer your question today or if you’re watching this webinar at a time other than the live presentation, please click on the questions link that is located in the resources box at the top right hand of your screen. You will then have the option to schedule a phone appointment with myself or Jan and we will help to answer your questions as well as to help you through the application process. So I did want to let everyone know that we do have Dr. Elena Capella on the line today. If you have any questions that you would like to ask, we would definitely like to have those questions responded to as well while we’re on the call today. We do have a few questions that have come in today. So one of the questions is for you Collyn. Do you find it difficult reaching faculty and or advisors considering the time zone difference?

Collyn West: No, actually I was kind of surprised about that. I think because some of the faculty are in different areas as well they make sure that they have unique office hours. I know for example, when you’re in school a lot of times the office hours are between the hours of 10AM and noon, but a lot of the people that I’m in the program with are all over the country and then we also work a lot of different hours. One of the people that I’ve had a group with a couple of times, she worked night shift. And the instructors and the faculty and then also all of the support people at the University have had a wide variety and range of hours to make sure that everybody was able to reach them. So I actually have not encountered any issues with getting ahold of any of them.

Jan Merlano: Hi Collyn this is Jan, I’m also an enrollment advisor on the program and we have another question for you, you spoke about the support from the faculty and the staff. And we have students who would like to know, how is your interaction actually with the faculty?

Collyn West: My interactions have all been very positive. I can give you one example, kind of a specific example of an issue I had I submitted an assignment and for some reason when I submitted it the formatting changed. And so the teacher wrote back in the grading rubric, that I got marked down because I had used italics. Which I thought, well that’s weird, so I went back and double checked and the assignment I submitted there was no italics and she and I emailed back and forth about it a couple of times and the interaction was very positive. She was very nice about it, she was very responsive most of the instructors that I’ve had have had a policy of getting back to students in no more than twenty-four hours. And she was also very understanding, and so she said, “no problem I haven’t had any other issues with your work”, and we can kind of talk through it. And she immediately adjusted the grade based on our conversation, and all of the instructors I’ve found have really worked with the students and have gone out of their way to make sure that we have had opportunities to meet with them in person or over the phone or through email. And so I honestly can’t say that I’ve had any bad interactions with any professors. They’ve even been willing when we’ve said, you know, like for advanced physo and pathology those quizzes are challenging in a good way but challenging but you know I can see that you’re all working hard on these we’re going to extend the amount of time that you have for them. So I really felt like that we had a mutual goal of wanting us to learn while we were in the program not just kind of get through an assignment list. So I honestly, the professors have been wonderful.

LaTonya Boyce: That’s excellent Collyn. Glad you’ve had great experiences. So I would like to introduce Dr. Elena Capella, to give us some closing remarks.

Dr. Elena Capella: Oh hi there, I just would like to thank Collyn very much for sharing your experiences in USF and it’s just so wonderful to hear it form a student’s perspective. You know at USF we really feel really strongly that we are connected to our students and really share in their professional growth and development. And Collyn you have such a great number of opportunities and such a great perspective that I just really appreciate hearing from you. We’re contacted all the time from health care organizations about the need for leadership at the bedside and I think Collyn you just really explained the importance of that, so I just want to thank you very much. And also would like to thank the perspective students for asking such thoughtful questions and just hope that we can be part of your professional development as well. Thank you very much.

LaTonya Boyce:
Thank you so much so I did want to review really quickly some key dates that we have for the online Masters of Science in Nursing program. So spring application the deadline is November 6th to apply to the program and you can give your enrollment advisor a call today to go through everything you would need to go through the application process. The class actually starts January 25, 2016. So we are here to take your calls today you can actually make an appointment today as well. If today does not suit you best. And then in addition to that we don’t have any more questions today so I would like to thank everyone for your participation today. Thank you so much Collyn for participating in our program and our webinar today.

Collyn West: Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me. This has been wonderful and I honestly if any of the students have other questions for me that they submit too, I’d be happy to answer them through Email as well.

LaTonya Boyce: That’s awesome thank you so much for that Collyn. And thank you so much as well to Dr. Capella for coming on today and giving your final closing remarks. So if you have any additional questions thank everyone for attending today and have a great day.

Collyn West: Thank you.

Dr. Elena Capella: Bye Bye Thank you.

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