After working in an emergency room at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston for two years, Katherine Gautreaux unexpectedly earned a promotion to a management position.
"Originally, I accepted the leadership role as interim manager with the understanding that I would have a small number of direct reports and be able to focus on education," Gautreaux said. She agreed to help out while talent acquisition looked for a permanent candidate.
That somebody turned out to be Gautreaux, so she returned to college and earned a Master of Science in Nursing in Nursing Administration from UTA's online program. She completed the degree in July 2018.
"Shortly after becoming interim manager, they gave me the whole department, tripling my number of direct reports and broadening my scope to include both adult and pediatric ERs," she said. "Because of my lack of experience, I felt I needed to put in extra work in order to prepare to be a leader, so I went back to school."
School and work weren't the only reasons Gautreaux needed the flexibility of the online format. She and her husband, Andre, became parents when she gave birth twice in less than two years while enrolled in the online MSN in Nursing Administration program. They have a daughter, Gabbie (18 months), and a son, A.J. (3 months).
Gautreaux also transitioned to a new job while enrolled in the program. She is now education coordinator of the trauma program at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.
"The online format was great," she said. "It was perfect. I had a super busy job as a manager -- then I had a baby. It was nice to be able to do coursework in the evenings when I got home and on the weekends whenever I could fit it in. The online format was very manageable.
"Then, I had a second baby and a new job and was still was able to do it online. It was very feasible. The flexibility is huge. I could not have done it if it was not online. My mother, Madelaine, and my husband, Andre, helped with the kids a lot. Everybody was very supportive."
Gautreaux grew up in Houston and applied for different degree options in different majors at several universities.
"The reason I applied to nursing school is because I wanted to make a difference," she said. "That's why I chose nursing as one of those career options. I decided I wanted to be in Austin, and that was where I applied to nursing school and ended up going. I did two years of undergrad and two years of nursing school [at UT Austin] and finished in 2013."
Remaining in the University of Texas system was important to Gautreaux. In addition, UTA's online nursing program came highly recommended by three of her leaders and mentors, Lauren Ivanhoe, Melanie Aluotto and Kelly Ward.
"It was word of mouth," Gautreaux said. "My mentors had already completed the program and spoke very highly of it. I felt confident in choosing that program. They were all in roles I could have seen myself in at some point."
One of the courses in the online MSN in Nursing Administration program that helped shape Gautreaux's leadership skills was NURS 5343: Nursing Leadership and Complex Healthcare Systems.
"That class laid out the groundwork for me to be a leader and to learn some of the nuances of leadership," she said. "One of our assignments required us to submit our work to a journal, and I am grateful for that. It showed me the value of nursing literature and led to me getting published much sooner than I anticipated."
She also benefited greatly from NURS 5342: Management of Nursing Operations, which includes 45 hours of clinical application.
"We worked on a large project throughout the course, in which we had to build/reconstruct a unit or program," Gautreaux said. "A large piece of the final product was writing a proposal. This was a great learning experience. I'm in the education field now, but I have found that nearly all of what I learned can be applied to my role as an educator."
Falling Into Place
Although Gautreaux did not plan on moving into a leadership role, especially so early in her career, she intends to continue building on the skills she honed in the online MSN in Nursing Administration program.
For now, Gautreaux looks forward to enjoying her position as an education coordinator and her role as a mother. She likes spending quality time with her family and looks forward to big family dinners for birthdays and other family celebrations.
While her life was already hectic when she began the online master's degree program at UTA, she found the experience manageable and valuable.
"It's important to understand that you'll be doing school during most of your off time in the online master's degree program," she said. "It's worth it especially when the end is in sight. I thought I wanted to be a nurse practitioner before I fell into leadership. All of my goals changed. Now, I have the privilege of being an educator, and I love it."
Spoken like a true leader. Make that a true Maverick.
Learn more about the UTA online MSN in Nursing Administration program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.