Alumni Interview with Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C – Duke University

About Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C: Monika Duitch works as an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where she both performs direct patient care in the cardiovascular diseases department and conducts research on cardiac conditions. She is also an instructor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Before joining Mayo, Dr. Duitch worked at a community hospital in Texas, and started her nursing career at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Dr. Duitch holds both a BS in Health Science and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Cleveland State University. She earned her MSN through Duke University’s online nursing program in 2014, specializing as an Adult Gerontology Primary Care Practitioner. In 2016, she completed her DNP from Duke, again choosing to pursue the degree online.

Interview Questions

[] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background in nursing?

[Dr. Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C] I obtained a BS in Health Science from Cleveland State University, my BSN as part of an accelerated program at Cleveland State, and both my MSN and DNP from Duke University. I began my career working for the Cleveland Clinic, transitioned to a community hospital in Texas affiliated with Texas Tech, and currently work for the Mayo Clinic. My interest and passion has always included care for patients with cardiac conditions, but more recently has evolved into improving healthcare delivery implementation. I am currently working on a number of research studies involving new and innovative healthcare delivery for patients with cardiac conditions.

[] What motivated you to pursue your MSN and DNP online? What advantages did you see to online education? Did Duke’s online program meet these expectations?

[Dr. Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C] I knew that I wanted to pursue my MSN with Duke University. I had reviewed their program and compared it to other leading programs. I found that Duke had a cardiology specialty as well as more focus on research. My husband was active duty military at the time, and for me a hybrid distance option made perfect sense to pursue due to convenience. Duke’s online program not only met my expectations, but exceeded them in such a way as to attract me for completion of my DNP. The faculty are exceptional and I could not be more pleased with the program and personal/professional growth it has enabled.

Over the course of my degrees I have moved from a provider of care, to someone who is motived to transform care for the health of the nation. I believe this transformation occurred due to exposure to a curriculum rich in research education from Duke and experiences in healthcare transformation. These courses helped me to understand the process of care that occurs in a complex adaptive system and the ways I can take an active role as a clinician to advance practice.

[] How did Duke University’s online platform enable you to interact with faculty members and classmates? Were courses asynchronous, synchronous, or a combination of both? How often did you interact with faculty, and did you feel that your instructors were accessible to online students?

[Dr. Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C] The online platform had a variety of ways for students to interact with faculty and classmates including live webcam sessions and discussion forums. My classes were both asynchronous and synchronous. I felt that instructors were available and much more easily accessible than traditional office visits. Any time that I needed assistance, faculty were only an email or phone call away—and readily made themselves available.

The combination of methods to connect to other students and faculty significantly improved comprehension of the course content, as well as my ability to use technology to engage others. This has proven to be an indispensable piece of my toolkit in today’s workplace. The use of technology to connect has become a large part of my role as a provider not only for patient care but also for sharing bedside innovation to other facilities both nationally and internationally.

[] Duke’s online graduate nursing programs require students to make a limited number of visits to the campus for labs and on-campus intensives. What activities and events were included in these on-campus sessions?

[Dr. Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C] The on-campus sessions were excellent for learning hands-on skills, and for in person didactic and group work. As a student I was able to gain clinical pearls from seasoned practitioners to incorporate into my practice. Often these sessions included individual instruction or work in a very small group where we could each gain 1:1 attention. This specific focus was tailored to build on/improve my personal skill set—and not a generic blanket instruction.

Probably my favorite session was for Dr. Short’s Nursing Policy class as a DNP student. Students presented current legislative topics pertinent to healthcare reform to important community and state leaders. The exercise increased awareness of current trends in legislation involving patient care, improved my ability to critically appraise current evidence, and enhanced my leadership and presentation skills to connect the gaps in practice for better patient care.

[] What were the major pros and cons of pursuing your graduate nursing degree online? What challenges did you encounter throughout your completion of the online program, and how did you address them? On the flip side, what did you enjoy most about completing your MSN and DNP online?

[Dr. Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C] A major pro to pursuing my degree online was the flexibility it allowed me for work/life/school balance. I was able to balance part time and full time work, my degree program, and my family life: this enabled me to advance my career and skills set while still providing for my family. I didn’t have to pause my life to complete my degree. In reality this is a perfect illustration of healthcare today. The important aspects of delivering in the moment care will always exist at the same time as initiatives to improve care. Learning the balance of completing necessary work for the “now”, while building a framework for future care delivery is what separates academic NPs from the fold.

I do not see many cons, because although it was hard work, it was definitely worth it. I treasure the relationships I built during the programs as well as the tangible changes to myself as a practitioner. Financially, there are many resources available to cover the cost of education. I utilized scholarships and student loans to finance my education. There are options for loan forgiveness for NPs who wish to teach after they complete their education, as well as those who work for non-profit organizations.

[] Clinical practicums are a major component of graduate nursing education. Can you briefly describe how Duke University handles clinical placements for online students? Can you elaborate on your experiences in your clinical practicum rotations and what were some key takeaways from your rotations that you feel helped you successfully make the transition from being a registered nurse to being a health care provider?

[Dr. Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C] Clinical practicums and assignment of preceptors was a completely stress free process. Many times while other colleagues at other academic institutions were struggling to find placement, I had already met my instructor, toured the practice, and begun seeing patients. This approach enabled me to spend more time in the clinical role, with more experience seeing patients. I felt very prepared after my preceptorships were complete.

Another benefit from the networking involved in the program is that after graduation I became a resource for other NPs and their clinical practicum in my local area. This ever growing network of alumnus/providers means that students need not worry about being able to find someone to complete their hands on work—there will always be someone connected to the program as a resource.

[] What advice would you give students just starting Duke’s online MSN program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are just starting or considering an online MSN program, whether it be at Duke or another institution?

[Dr. Monika Duitch, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C] Students starting an online MSN program, or just beginning to look, should critically appraise each program to ensure that it will offer what they are looking for. I would encourage students to speak with an admissions counselor or program faculty to further discuss questions or concerns. Always remember, just as they might interview you for admission, you are interviewing them too!

It is always appropriate to map out 1,5,10 year goals along with a vision/mission for your life as a provider. Having this framework available when evaluating programs will be useful to measure against and ensure the program is a good fit. You will want to track your progress towards your goals, and analyze barriers or opportunities that emerge during the process. If you continue to track the journey you will most certainly get to your destination.

Thank you, Dr. Duitch, for participating in our alumni interview series, and sharing your experience as an online student!

About the Author: Jake Ravani is an Editor at, and has been writing about educational trends and online degree programs since 2010. He earned his BA in English from UC Santa Cruz.