Gina Peach laces up her shoes during her lunch break as she prepares for her afternoon run. She connects her headphones and makes her listening selection for the day. It’s not a playlist of driving rock songs or sweeping symphonies, but material to help her grow: audio lessons and podcasts.
“I listen to what I’m trying to learn,” she says.
With each step, Gina exercises her body and her mind, studying to earn her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and to become a family nurse practitioner. It’s all part of her strategy for success, where she never lets a moment pass by without making sure she gets the most from it.
“I study when I have a free moment to myself,” she says. “All the time.”
As with all things in life, Gina works hard and remains driven by her goal to become better than yesterday.
She approaches and embraces change with courage, and she’s got the endurance for the long run. After all, every major milestone or endeavor starts with having the courage to take one brave step.
“I think taking the first step — that’s a very hard and scary thing to do,” she says. “Just taking that first step to jumping back into school and doing something that’s going to be difficult. That’s the bravest thing I can think of.”
Just taking that first step to jumping back into school and doing something that’s going to be difficult. That’s the bravest thing I can think of.
Educational and emotional endurance
Maintaining a busy schedule, working full time as a nurse, and caring for a family with five children could understandably pose a challenge to anyone considering earning a graduate degree. But not Gina. She’s driven by her aspirations in nursing and her commitment to helping others, qualities that help give her the bravery to endure the demands of balancing work, family, and education.
Now, after years of courage and dedication, she has her MSN to show for her efforts.
“I worked full time as a nurse, I have a family, and I was able to do this program,” she says. “It’s not been easy, but I know that I got through it. I did it.”
Until now, Gina has always worked with adults in a hospital setting. Becoming a family nurse practitioner will be a shift from that normalcy, but Gina welcomes that change. She loves the idea of helping and treating people of all ages and walks of life.
“I’ve always worked with adults in a hospital setting, and I just love the idea of taking care of a group of humans, helping to promote their wellness, and getting to know people,” she says. “I am super-passionate and excited about it.”
Studying through a pandemic
COVID-19 added a layer of complexity to Gina’s decision to continue her education. The pandemic presented a new challenge to almost everyone who considered pursuing an education — especially people in nursing and healthcare, like Gina.
Choosing to earn her MSN in Maryville’s online program gave her an easier way to navigate some of the roadblocks of the pandemic with ease. The online coursework allowed her to study and work around her busy nursing schedule, and supportive faculty and advisors were there to help her when she needed it.
That was especially apparent when Gina began searching for a clinical placement near her. The pandemic made this process difficult for some nursing students due to shutdowns and other logistical issues. But with the assistance of her professors, like Dr. Mykale Elbe, Gina was able to find a clinical placement and get even more real-world experience.
Maryville had rather unique success in helping nursing students, like Gina, find clinical placements. The same support wasn’t available for many nursing students nationwide. In fact, some of Gina’s friends who paid a premium and expected assistance ended up having even more trouble getting help or finding a placement, she says.
Clinicals ended up being Gina’s favorite part of the MSN program at Maryville — not a roadblock, like some students experienced at other universities.
“I love clinicals. It’s been the best part of the program, just going and doing what I’m learning to do,” she says.
I worked full time as a nurse, I have a family, and I was able to do this program. If you’ve become a nurse, you can become a nurse practitioner. You just have to have the drive.
Giving and receiving support
Continuing education is a marathon, not a sprint. A crucial component of success is support — in both the academic and emotional senses. Gina found both types from her family, her professors, and the network of friends and colleagues she met in her program.
“You’re going to need a lot of people cheering you on and being there for you,” she says.
Through the program’s cohort model, Gina had the opportunity to get to know her classmates over several years. Despite being based throughout the United States, they came together as a tight-knit group who interacted regularly through video chats and in online study groups. Even now, at the end of her journey, Gina still keeps in touch with some of her classmates she met online in her very first class at Maryville.
“Each course has a different Facebook page, and you can go in there and get tons of resources,” she says. “Study guides, questions the week before a test — everyone chips in like a study group.”
Not only that, but Gina found she coincidentally had two classmates right in her backyard in Portland, Oregon, including one conducting clinicals in the same location.
“We found out we were actually in the same class, at the same time, doing clinicals at the same place,” she says.
Having a strong network of colleagues in the program helped, and that support was further buttressed by faculty members who were attentive and dedicated to student success. They responded promptly to Gina’s inquiries, allowing her to continue her assignments without pause.
Crossing the finish line
It can be daunting to begin a new career path, even if you’re prepared for the journey. That’s when bravery kicks in. For eight years, Gina has been a nurse. Now, she has the medical footing and education to become a nurse practitioner.
“It almost feels like a completely different field,” she says. “As a nurse practitioner, I’ll be diagnosing and prescribing, which you don’t do as a nurse. It excites me and scares me at the same time. I am probably more excited than scared.”
Gina acknowledges that there’s still more to learn beyond graduation, and she supports lifelong learning. She’s considering, after working in her new field and some well-deserved rest, continuing her educational journey by earning her doctorate.
“Things in the medical field change constantly, and there’s always something to learn — something you don’t know,” she says. “I’m already thinking about all the things I want to do when I’m done with this degree to continue learning more to help me be a better provider.”
Gina knows things will be different once she graduates and crosses the finish line. But she’s ready to take on the next stage in her career.
“It’s going to be surreal,” she says. “I’m not going to feel like it’s over. I’m going to sleep in on my day off, and I’m going to exercise more. I’m very excited.”
If you’re ready to see how Maryville Online can help you be brave and pursue your educational and professional goals, we’re here for you. Check out our online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees, or schedule a call with an advisor today.
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