Joy Smoot, who is originally from Rhode Island, did not have an especially large cheering section at her graduation ceremony at the University of Texas at Arlington, but her loved ones in attendance weren’t the only ones watching and beaming with pride.
“It’s just me, my husband [Matt] and his family here in Texas, but much of my family in Rhode Island was able to watch graduation since it was live-streaming,” Smoot said. “My sisters, my parents and my uncle all watched it live. They were so excited to be able to do that. It was a really great experience.”
In December 2015, Texans and Rhode Islanders alike witnessed Smoot graduate with an MSN in Nursing Administration, which she earned online. She also completed UTA’s RN to BSN online program two years earlier.
“It was a long-term goal I had,” Smoot said. “I always knew that I wanted to go to graduate school. At the time, I had been working as a charge nurse, and I started to really get interested in leadership. I always thought I would go a clinical route like nurse practitioner or something like that, but I started to get more interested in leadership.
“I participated in a few projects at my facility, like lean management projects and things like that. I also became interested in practice improvement, which ultimately led me to choose the MSN in Nursing Administration.”
Smoot is a clinical nurse manager on a 22-bed cardiovascular unit at The Heart Hospital Baylor Denton in Texas. Prior to that, she worked at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, also in Texas, for five-and-a-half years.
“I knew that I wanted to do something in leadership but not something specific,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in different areas, like quality and process improvement. I became a clinical supervisor right before I started the MSN program. I was a supervisor on a unit that started my track toward becoming a manager.”
Answering the Call
Smoot knew at an early age she was interested in the healthcare profession.
“I wanted to do something meaningful, and I had a lot of family and friends who were nurses,” she said. “I got my nursing assistant certification and started working at a hospital and saw what the nurses did. I just really fell in love with patient care and felt like it was my calling.”
Smoot earned a diploma in nursing from St. Joseph School of Nursing in Rhode Island in 2009. She moved to Texas after meeting her husband, Matt, who is a commercial real estate broker from Dallas. Smoot learned of the UTA nursing program through her hospital.
“It was very easy to apply, we got tuition reimbursement and it was affordable,” she said. “I worked with a lot of people who had been through the program.”
Smoot said the online format was also ideal for her busy schedule.
“It worked really well,” she said. “It was still definitely demanding. I had to learn how to manage my time. At the time, I was fortunate enough as a supervisor to have one day off during the week. I did four 10-hour shifts, so I would do a lot of my work on that day and on the weekends. Occasionally, I would have to work on stuff in the evenings. It was challenging but still very manageable.”
Smoot said one of the most valuable components of the master’s program was the understanding it provided of the scope of nursing.
“It really gave me a lot of perspective and a more global view of nursing as a profession, like things that maybe, as a staff nurse, I wouldn’t have been aware of,” she said. “You’re just thinking about coming in and taking care of your patients and doing the best job you can do for them. Going through the master’s program really gives you more of an idea of healthcare globally, population health and how it all ties together.
“In the leadership classes, you learn a lot of different types of processes and even doing case studies where you’re talking about different ways to engage things. I learned a lot of management and leadership skills.”
One of Smoot’s favorite courses was Nursing and Healthcare Policy [NURS 5382].
“It was probably the hardest class in the MSN program,” she said. “It was just very involved and required a lot of work, but it was an interesting class in which I learned a lot. It was hard and just constant work, but I got to do some really neat things.”
Among those things was the opportunity to interview a nurse lawyer who was one of her professors in the RN to BSN online program.
“It was neat to actually meet her in person and learn about her career and her path,” Smoot said. “It kind of forced me to get out and meet some of the nurse leaders in the community and learn about them. And, of course, to learn all of the legal aspects of healthcare and government, like how a bill is passed. I found it to be really interesting.”
Way to Go
Smoot said the support she received from her friends and family, both near and far, was an important key to finishing the MSN program.
“They were very supportive,” she said. “I think it was different for me because I don’t have kids, so it’s just me and my husband. It might have been a little bit easier for me to manage. I know it’s harder when you have a family.”
Smoot said she has recommended her chosen UT Arlington nursing programs — both the RN to BSN and the Master of Science in Nursing — to several of her colleagues.
“I have some staff that I work with now who are going through the RN to BSN program and the Nurse Practitioner program,” she said. “We compare notes and talk about our experiences. I would say it’s challenging, but you won’t regret it when you’re done. You’ll be glad you did it. It does open up doors and also helps you grow in your career.”
Learn more about the UTA online nursing degree programs.
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