5 Myths About Working on a Graduate Degree

By Janet Tucker, PhD, RNC-OB

Have you often thought when you find out a co-worker is working on a graduate degree, “That’s not for me — I don’t have the time or the money and besides I enjoy what I am doing now”? I did not seek a graduate degree until my children were in high school and after beginning; I wish I had started on that journey earlier! Let’s address some of the myths.

  • I do not have time in my life right now.
    I delayed a pursuing graduate degree because I thought I would be on campus as much as undergraduate classes require. Many graduate nursing programs offer online and on campus options or a combination. I often advise nurses, just stick your toe in the water and try one class. You can fit the assignments in your life no matter what shift you are currently working. Just trying one class a semester is “doable”
  • I am not sure I can afford the tuition
    There are many options-private and public colleges. There are scholarships and some employers offer tuition reimbursement. It is an employee benefit-check it out!
  • I have not been in school in years. I am not sure I am smart enough for graduate school.
    I hear this one a lot. You are smart-you are a RN and passed boards! Hands down for most nurses, our first program is the most difficult whether it was a BSN, diploma or AD program. You will be pleasantly surprised that a graduate degree builds on your existing knowledge and you will be encouraged to focus on your specialty area for assignments. You will often be able to combine an assignment with a project you wanted to do at work anyway. Plus for all of us “seasoned” nurses, when we have to use an example from practice, we have years of case studies and examples to use in assignments.
  • I really enjoy being at the bedside, I don’t want to do anything different right now
    Great! We need advanced degree nurses using their expertise and practicing evidence based practice in every setting. A graduate degree will open doors that you may not even think about right now. There may be an amazing opportunity that will come your way that requires an advanced degree.
  • I am not sure I can keep up with the technology now-discussion boards and on line classes.
    I was not confident either, however if you have middle or high school age children or neighbors, they will enjoy helping you. You will quickly adjust just as you have to EMRs.

I share all these myths because this is what I heard as I was working on my MSN and then a PhD. I began my MSN part time at the age of 50 when I was working about 24 hours a week and had all three children still at home. I did not intend to pursue a doctorate degree, however I became fascinated at the opportunity to influence care through research.

I started on my PhD one year after completing my MSN. I worked full-time during my PhD journey and I completed it within 4 ½ years. To add to the craziness, all three of my children got married during this time. It has now been a year since I graduated and I am an assistant professor at a university. I am able to continue to work occasionally in a clinical setting, conduct research, and teach the next generation of maternal child nurses.  I never would have dreamed that this would be my journey when I began taking that first graduate course. Therefore, if you are considering giving it a try, jump in, the water really is great. There are many others ready to encourage you along the way.

Janet Tucker is an assistant professor at the University of Memphis Loewenberg College of Nursing, where she is currently teaching maternal child nursing. She completed her MSN in 2010 and PhD in 2017. Her research interests are expectant women experiencing a fetal anomaly diagnosis.


AWHONN Resources

With generous support from individual and corporate donors, AWHONN’s Every Woman, Every Baby charitable giving program provides the opportunities to AWHONN members to apply for research grants and project grants who work in continue to improve the health of mothers, babies and their families. Additionally, AWHONN’s commitment to support emerging leaders also provides opportunities to apply to academic scholarships and enhance their professional development through attending AWHONN’s Annual Convention and information of education resources. , For more information on AWHONN scholarships and professional development opportunities visit http://www.awhonn.org/page/awards


Tools for Survival as a New Nurse in the NICU

By Lori Boggan, RN

It has been an amazing eleven year journey working as a neonatal nurse. The journey has taken me across the United States and beyond. Being a nurse has enriched and changed my life in so many ways. For that I am eternally grateful.

I still recall my first job. I felt like an impostor in my uniform.

I didn’t feel like a nurse because in my mind a nurse was someone who could start an IV blindfolded, resuscitate a patient while sleeping, and recognize all the signs and symptoms of septic shock at the drop of a hat.

Little did I know that there is no perfect nurse. There are nurses who are born skilled, those who are walking encyclopedias, and those who have the kindest hearts.

Combine all this and it’s almost like catching a glimpse of big foot, the tooth fairy, or even a leprechaun. With this in mind, the following are just a few recommendations for new nurses in the NICU…

Find your mentor
A mentor is a nurse that takes you under their wing and guides you. It may not be the mentor you were assigned to on your new unit, but you will find him/her. It often happens naturally. You find that nurse that loves to teach and your personalities just click. They are part teacher, part life coach, part parent or sibling, and eventually friend. They are the nurses you aspire to be. I have a trail of them across the globe.

Lori and her mentor Mary

Lori and her mentor Mary

You will be tested
The doctors will test you, the nurses will test you, the respiratory therapists will test you, and the parents will test you. It’s ok. It is normal. You have to prove that you have some clue, which you do! Trust me, you do! And with that, always trust your instincts.

Take care of yourself on your days off
Use your days off to enjoy your life outside of work. You work in intensive care. You need to find some outlet that has nothing to do with your job. Meet up with your friends, get a massage, run if you run, yoga if you yoga.

Handle with care
Our tiny patients are so delicate. No matter how stressed or rushed you are, handle them gently. Handle the parents gently. They are in shock and grieving. They need you.

Wash Your Hands
Hand washing still is the single most important thing you can do for your patients. Patients are still contracting and succumbing to hospital-acquired infections even in our most technologically advanced units. Our tiny patients have little to no immune defense.

Don’t Forget
When new nurses come through the door after you’ve worked a year or two, remember that you were there not long ago. Welcome them, mentor them, don’t talk about them when they leave the room. Be the positive example in your unit.

Welcome to the nursing profession! Best wishes on this exciting journey!

img006Lori is a NICU Staff Nurse  at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden. After becoming a nurse, Lori traveled across the country to work a three-month travel contract in San Francisco, California.  Nearly five years later her journey continued to Gothenburg, Sweden, where she now lives and works.

My First Experience at the 2015 AWHONN Convention: Day 3

by, Bree Fallon, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM


Bree and Lisa Miller!

When I was a baby nurse at the beginning of my career, we ran high dose oxytocin at my institution. On occasion a patient would not reach an adequate contraction pattern despite the high titration of the medication. Nurses would say, the patient’s oxytocin receptors were saturated, turn the medication off, and let them rest.

Since arriving at Convention, the steady stream of information has completely saturated my brain. Continue reading

Happy Nurses Week!

Phone 704-377-7662 email mitchell@mitchellkearney.comHappy Nurses Week!

As we near the end of this week, which celebrates nurses and also encompasses the day we celebrate moms, I want to recognize the impact you make on lives each and every day.

The work nurses do around the world, and the difference you make for women and newborns, is unmatched.   That is why we started this blog at AWHONN to tell your stories, your successes, your challenges, your joys and your heartbreaks.

Nursing is changing and evolving because of people like you—people who aim to provide nonjudgmental, evidenced-based care in settings that are busier than ever, with patients who have increasing health and economic challenges.

Every day we learn more about early stresses that influence newborn brain development in the NICU, newborn screening regulation, and the benefits of skin-to-skin at birth.  You continue to innovate and be flexible with each new discovery.

I am proud to represent each and every one of you and to celebrate you, your commitment to women and newborns, and your leadership in this rewarding but very tough profession of nursing.

THANK YOU for all that you do this week and every day,

Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN


PS. If you want have your story considered for the blog we’d love to hear from you. Make sure to fill out our Blogger Submission Form and we’ll be in touch.

Phone 704-377-7662email mitchell@mitchellkearney.comLynn Erdman is the CEO of AWHONN with more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare and nonprofit sectors. She is a highly skilled national leader in the field of nursing and previously held key national leadership positions with three global health organizations: the American Cancer Society, the American College of Surgeons, and the Susan G. Komen Global Headquarters.

Nursing…It Runs in the Family

Karen Harris and Andrew

Karen Harris and her son Andrew

by, Karen T. Harris, MSN, RN, WHNP-BC

I always knew that I wanted to be a nurse. From telling my mom that at the age of four to becoming the Vice President Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital after nursing for 27 years, my passion for nursing and patient care has never diminished.

No one in my immediate family of eight children is in nursing, so when I had my own children I had no expectation that they would hold the same passion that I did. However, looking back I can see what might have led my son Andrew into the health care world.
Continue reading