Alexis Turner feels thankful in Blessing, Texas.
After graduating from the online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program at UTA in August 2019, she landed an FNP position and helped open a satellite clinic in the small town 95 miles southwest of Houston.
"I didn't take any time after graduation," she said. "I studied for a couple of weeks, took the certification test, passed, got my credentials within a month and started the job on Sept. 30. We opened the clinic on Nov. 6."
Turner is applying what she learned in the online program at Mid Coast Well Care - Blessing, which is a few miles from El Campo, home of the company's main hospital, Mid Coast Medical Clinic, and her hometown.
"I always knew I wanted to continue my higher education, whether by going into nursing education or becoming a practitioner," she said. "I researched for a good six months. The MSN program at UTA was a good fit for me. It was online, flexible and not a bad price. I also had good references from my co-workers who completed the program."
The online format helped Turner work full time as a night nurse and study at work or at home any time her schedule allowed.
"My biggest takeaway from the MSN program is to be flexible," she said. "Things change, schedules change, information changes. You have to always be learning as a nurse. You have to be flexible with everything."
Blessing in Disguise
After playing volleyball and softball at El Campo High School, Turner set her sights on a career as a physical therapist. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M University in 2012.
"When I got toward the end of the program, I was applying to physical therapy schools," she said. "It was not that I wasn't getting in. It just wasn't feeling right. I prayed really hard and made a list of career options with my parents.
"I didn't want the schedule of an athletic trainer, so I applied to nursing school. I love sports, taking care of people and the mechanics of the body, which is why I did kinesiology. When I got into nursing school, it felt right. I was pretty involved, and it went from there."
Turner completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Texas A&M in 2015. She did a residency on the orthopedic floor at Memorial Hermann Health System in the Houston area for a little more than a year while commuting 70 miles each way from El Campo.
"I was tired of driving," she said. "There was a job opening at El Campo Memorial Hospital, which had 20 beds. When I started, it was a five-bed emergency room. I started as a med-surg nurse at ECMH, then was trained to be an ER nurse. Before I left, I was charge nurse."
The aforementioned flexibility of the online MSN – FNP program came into play for Turner when Hurricane Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast in 2017.
"I was taking Advanced Pharmacology and working 16-hour shifts for two weeks straight, and I was not able to take a test or turn in some homework assignments," she said. "When I emailed Dr. [Mary] Davis, she was very understanding and very proud of me for doing what I was doing. She said, 'When you are ready, let me know and we can get these things done.'"
Turner, who also enjoyed the course taught by Susan Dancer and Dr. John Gonzalez, said that helpfulness was typical of UTA faculty members any time she had a question or concern.
"There were several instances where everybody was responsive and kind – even if you were not understanding something," she said. "They said, 'Try this instead. Maybe it will help you.' I enjoyed the people in the program, too. We were all there to help each other, which I liked about it."
While Turner was earning a master's degree, her husband, Justin, and the rest of her family encouraged her to stay the course and helped her balance school and work.
"They are very supportive, but they were sad because I missed a lot of family stuff and some Thanksgivings and Christmases," she said. "My family and my husband's family were very understanding. Our aunts and uncles on both sides have taught us to be ambitious and to go for what you want."
Turner, who also worked as a high school math tutor for five months at her alma mater, isn't resting on her laurels. In fact, she is already pondering a return to school in the near future.
"I have been toying with the idea of doing a postgraduate certificate," she said. "I might teach full time at some point. Right now, I am going to enjoy this new role."
Turner believes earning an MSN online at UTA is achievable for any nurse who has the right frame of mind and is willing to work hard.
"It's like when I grew up being told by my parents that you can do whatever you put your mind to," she said. "Just know that you have to be flexible and that it's a lot of time, money and effort, but it was the best three years of my life.
"I not only learned to be more responsible and more respectful and got to be a leader, but I am also in the position I wanted to be in. I am very thankful for everything that led up to now."
Learn more about the UTA online MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner program.
- What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
- What to Expect as a Nurse Practitioner
- Why Family Nurse Practitioner Is a Top Job
- Military Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners
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