When Julie Adams started the Nursing Leadership and Management track of the online Master of Science in Nursing program at the University of West Florida, she wasn’t exactly high tech.
“It was challenging — especially in the first semester,” Adams said of the program, which has since been renamed to Nurse Executive. “I had been out of school for so long, I had no idea how to download, upload or submit. It was the first time I had ever taken an online course, so it was very foreign to me.”
However, she became a seasoned veteran before long.
“By the end of the semester, I knew I had it,” she said. “The flexibility was what I loved most.”
Twenty years after she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Mobile, Adams completed the online MSN Nurse Executive program in August 2017.
Although she has been a registered nurse at Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola for nearly 10 years, Adams returned to school with an eye on expanding her career horizons.
“I could see that I was going to do bedside nursing only for so long,” she said. “I wanted to learn more. I felt like that was where I was led to go.”
Patience and Patients
In addition to being a full-time employee, Adams is a single mother of three — Kaylie Simpson (17), Cody Simpson (16) and Laykin Simpson (11). Her friends and family were a little surprised when she informed them that she was going back to school when she already had such a full plate.
“They were a little hesitant initially,” Adams said. “They were like, ‘What? A single mom of three working full-time and going to get your master’s degree?’ But, they were very supportive and are now very excited it’s done.”
Adams was also happy to set an example with school for her kids.
“I think it will raise the bar for them,” she said. “It was really interesting because they would see me up really late and really early doing my work. When they would complain, I would say, ‘No, uh-uh. You can do this, as well.'”
Even though she had to have an online format to make the master’s program feasible, Adams wanted to attend a local university.
“Dr. Angela Blackburn, who is in charge of graduate studies at UWF, was a nurse practitioner in my unit, so I trusted her,” Adams said. “She encouraged me. I knew I would have a go-to person locally versus a college online. I liked having the assurance of knowing that I had a local university.”
Adams said her favorite course in the master’s program was NGR 6833L: Nursing Leadership & Management EBP Project II.
“I loved, loved, loved it,” she said. “I liked that the pieces were finally coming together. It tied in everything that they had been teaching us.”
RN in SA
An abstract Adams completed for a capstone project in the MSN program was accepted for a poster presentation at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio Conference on Community Engagement and Healthcare Improvement Connecting Research, Practice and Community for Improved Outcomes in September 2017. She will be in the Alamo City to make the presentation.
“It’s a study of moral distress within the neonatal intensive care unit,” she said. “It was quite a bit of work. Not only did we have to research and make sure we have the evidence to support it, we also had ethics-based conversations, which were time-consuming.
“Another thing that was really challenging was the Institutional Review Board process. I was unsure of myself during that whole process. It was really insightful. I learned an incredible amount, and I’m still learning.”
Adams credits Dr. Blackburn and fellow UWF nursing faculty member Dr. Janet Chubb for their help and guidance throughout her time in the program.
“Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Chubb went above and beyond,” she said. “They met me in my unit on more than one occasion, and they attended my capstone presentation. The support that they showed was phenomenal.”
Answering the Call
Adams, who grew up in Laurel, Mississippi, knew from an extremely young age what she wanted to do for a living.
“I was called to be a nurse,” she said. “When I was four years old, I saw a nurse dressed in all white outside of a hospital. I thought she looked really professional. I was intrigued by the building and knowing they take care of people. In that moment, I literally knew that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Adams, who hopes to become a chief nursing officer, has worked on several units during her 20-year career, including the emergency room and labor and delivery.
“I have been in the neonatal intensive care unit for more than nine years,” she said. “It’s very challenging daily and keeps my attention, which not many jobs do.”
RN in DR
In addition to spending as much time as possible with her children, Adams has been on two medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic the last two years. She led the 2017 trip, which included three non-medical and seven medical missionaries. Plans are in the works for a 2018 trip.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “We work at a clinic there. We also went in and instructed positions and nurses in the hospital setting, which was really neat. We’re building on what we started there. Our goal this year is to collaborate with other medical teams that go there so we can better standardize their medical care. We hope to have at least eight to 10 people this year.”
Adams said it’s important to be patient with the master’s degree upon graduation.
“Things don’t happen overnight,” she said. “You don’t get your master’s and, bam, you’re in another position. You really have to know your strengths in order to know which direction you’re going in. I’m struggling with what the next step is and being satisfied that I may just use the knowledge I gained to do what I do every day, instead of automatically going into another position.”
Still, she couldn’t be happier with her decision to return to school.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “To me, each semester just unfolded. The program absolutely met and exceeded my expectations.”
Learn more about the UWF online Master of Science in Nursing program.
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