Kasey Vaughter

March 2014 Cohort

Texarkana, TX

Pursuit of Autonomy: ICU Nurse Starts Journey to Primary Care

I love helping people — I enjoy listening to their concerns and sharing my knowledge in order to provide care. Being able to help people during difficult times in their life — it means a lot to me.

Prior to enrolling in the Nursing@Simmons MSN Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) online program, I worked as a nurse in a busy intensive care unit (ICU) in a large, tertiary hospital in South Carolina. I started as a staff nurse and worked my way up to become a primary preceptor for new ICU nurses coming into the unit, and then as charge nurse.

In the ICU, nurses have a lot to juggle. You have to think quickly and critically while tending to the needs of very sick patients. You also have to educate their families and keep them updated. At the same time, you must collaborate with other members of the health care team. It can be an exhausting, challenging, and chaotic environment at times, but the rewards that come from helping my patients and making a difference in their lives more than makes up for it. The relationships you build with patients and their families are indescribable.

While I love being a nurse, I want the autonomy to be able to treat patients and help them as a primary care provider. As an FNP, I envision getting out of the hospital and into primary care. I want to work on the other side of health care, and help people when they are not critically ill. I want to be able to build relationships and follow through with patient care. That’s what drew me to Nursing@Simmons.

I’ve been enrolled in the program for just over a year. I love that that the work is split in two — assignments that I can complete on my own time and live classes that I attend online once a week. The live classes hold me accountable, as well as provide an opportunity to address questions and talk about the assigned reading. It is also nice to see my fellow classmates and hear their perspectives!

Clinical rotations are definitely my favorite. Last year, I did a clinical rotation in urgent care. I learned so much — plus it gave me an opportunity to practice skills such as suturing and manage fractures, and to perform procedures like incisions and drainages. I learn best in environments such as this where I can see things and practice. Plus, it also reminds me of my reasons for enrolling in the program. Being able to apply what I’ve learned makes me realize how much information I have absorbed from class and helps me feel more confident.

If you are considering the Nursing@Simmons MSN program, my advice would be: Stick with it! There have been times when I have felt like it was all so overwhelming — writing papers, studying for tests, and then adding in clinical rotations. Not to mention dealing with day-to-day life. Stick with the required readings, watch the lectures — twice if you can — and take time for yourself. In the end, I want to have the best education to prepare me to become a successful Nurse Practitioner. And that’s what you’ll get from Simmons.