Interview: Julie Vosit-Steller at Nursing@Simmons

Julie Vosit-Steller, DNP, FNP-BC, AOCN, Associate Professor of Practice at the School of Nursing and Health Sciences and Program Director at Nursing@Simmons joins us today to discuss their distance learning MSN program.

Can you tell us about the online Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) offered at Simmons College

Simmons’s online Master of Science in Nursing program, Nursing@Simmons, offers students across the country the opportunity to experience a nationally accredited graduate nursing program with an established history of academic and clinical excellence. The program, which emphasizes scholarship, provides students with specialized education in primary health care nursing, and prepares them for practice as Family Nurse Practitioners. Graduates are equipped to deliver primary health care across the life span and may pursue leadership positions, research initiatives, and doctoral study.

Nursing@Simmons features both classroom and clinical experiences that are responsive to student needs and interests as well as to program goals. Our program blends live, face-to-face classes, interactive tutorials, and innovative case-study methods. Students gain hands-on clinical experience in major health care settings near their own communities. They are guided and mentored by active certified advanced practice nurses and nursing faculty.

How long does a typical online MSN program take at Simmons? What is the maximum and minimum time of completion?

The program will take a student approximately 20 months (five terms) to complete on a full-time basis and approximately 28 months (seven terms) on a part-time basis

What do you think makes the Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences’ MSN program stand out from other online MSN programs?

Nursing@Simmons offers an academically rigorous curriculum that matches our on-campus MSN program and our online students benefit from one of the oldest, most-established nurse practitioner programs in the country. All of our faculty members continue to practice clinically and are involved in active areas of research and advocacy, at both the local and global level. This allows faculty access to the most up-to-date approach to care of patients and families and they bring their experiences back to the online classroom.

Our practice partnerships in the greater Boston area are longstanding and interdisciplinary, and Nursing@Simmons students are able to benefit from our well-respected reputation in the health care field. Simmons’s faculty members take pride in the delivery of our online program and enjoy the opportunity to develop supportive and mentoring relationships with students. We learn as much about our teaching methods and course design from students as they learn from us. The dialogue is ongoing and growing all the time.

Nursing@Simmons students take part in a hybrid program that allows them to complete weekly coursework around their busy schedules, while still experiencing a classroom environment that provides face-to-face interaction with classmates and professors. They’re also given the opportunity to further build their network through an immersion experience that brings them to our campus in Boston, MA and through hands-on clinical placements near their communities.

How important would you say accreditation is when choosing an online MSN program?

Accreditation agencies that are officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Education work to ensure the quality of degree programs and assess the educational practices of higher education institutions. It’s very important for prospective students to consider accreditation when choosing an online MSN program. I’m proud that the Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences is accredited through 2019 by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Simmons College is also accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and by national and regional discipline-specific agencies in the health care field.

There is some debate as to whether or not online MSN degrees are as worthwhile as traditional MSN degrees. What steps does Simmons College take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they’d receive in a classroom?

The reputation of the Simmons Family Nurse Practitioner program in the professional health care community is exceptional. Preceptors and employers of our graduates report that Simmons students are very well prepared and are among the best students in their field. We hold our online program to the same standards as our on-campus program, and regularly evaluate our curriculum, program content, student experience, and student performance to ensure that the same high-quality standards are applied in the online environment.

Nursing@Simmons faculty and student support team are dedicated to serving the needs of our students and preparing them to become leading Family Nurse Practitioners who are passionate about finding ways to help others lead healthy lives. We are confident that our program will continue to be nationally successful in growing a diverse community of students, with a strong pedagogical foundation, and a 100% first-time pass rate on the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) board exam.

What are the advantages to earning a MSN degree in general?

Earning an MSN is often both professionally and personally motivated. Registered nurses who have a bachelor’s degree will find that by obtaining an MSN, they are providing themselves with more opportunities to work autonomously and take a greater role in caring for their patients across the life span. They will be able to participate in the assessment, diagnosis, management and treatment of patients dealing with a wide variety of illnesses.

An MSN graduate will have the ability to work in many different settings, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or even hospice care. With the roll out of the Affordable Care Act, Family Nurse Practitioners in particular will be at the forefront of health care reform and be in greater demand than ever as more Americans become insured and the baby boomer generation ages.

Does Simmons offer job placement for students who graduate from your MSN program?

Simmons College is dedicated to supporting the career interests and job preparation of our students and graduates. Our Nursing@Simmons team offers lifetime career services through a comprehensive range of tools, services, and resources that help our graduates identify job opportunities and foster professional development.

It is not uncommon for our students to be offered positions in areas that they have completed their clinical placements. In addition, the opportunity to network, while being mentored by their preceptors, allows our nurses to explore various settings and sites for employment.

What type of financial aid packages are available for students in nursing? Are there any fellowships, grants, and scholarships available?

Nursing@Simmons students have various options for funding their degree including federal loans, private loans, and grants. Scholarships and additional grants, sponsored by health-related foundations and professional organizations, may also be available.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling in an online MSN program for the first time?

The best advice I can give a nurse who is researching online MSN programs, is to choose a school that is most similar to your philosophy and goals for the future. Assure that you set attainable goals for yourself, both professionally and academically. In order to do this, take time to prioritize your needs; personal, professional, and academic. Evaluate your dedication to the program for which you are applying and assure that you can make the commitment to the program, start to finish. Know your strengths and weaknesses going into the program, and be willing to be an expert when you can be and a novice when appropriate. Investigate and use all the resources that are available. Ask for help.

I would also urge students to explore the depth of faculty expertise, student support and technology needs. It is very important that you are initially prepared to spend as much time learning the technology as you are beginning your coursework. Be prepared and organized and create a space for studying. This space is different for everyone, but very important.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Simmons?

The most enjoyable aspect of my position at Simmons is the opportunity that I have to interact and learn with my colleagues and the students, both on campus and across the country through the virtual classroom. I smile every day that I walk onto the Simmons campus. I am inspired to be the best person I can be in this environment.

For more information on Nursing@Simmons, the online MSN program offered at Simmons College, visit them online.

Thank you Julie, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!