Alumni Interview with Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC – Gonzaga University

About Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC: Deven Robinson currently works as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at North Valley Hospital in Whitefish, Montana. He is also an adjunct faculty member at nearby Flathead Valley Community College. In addition to being a certified PMHNP, Mr. Robinson is a licensed Family Nurse Practitioner, and worked as an FNP for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for over three years.

Mr. Robinson holds both a bachelor’s degree in biology and a BSN from Carroll College in Helena, Montana. In 2014, he graduated from the online MSN program at Gonzaga University, where he specialized as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Recently, Mr. Robinson completed a post-graduate certificate in the PMHNP specialty through the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

Interview Questions:

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

[Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC] I attended Carroll College and received both a bachelor’s in biology and a BSN. I worked for a couple years in a research lab and then also worked for four years as a Registered Nurse. I then obtained my MSN for my FNP at Gonzaga University. I am licensed as a Family Nurse Practitioner by AANP and licensed as an APRN and RN in Montana. I also recently attended Johns Hopkins University and obtained my Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certification. I also am currently an adjunct faculty member at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana.

I worked as a Registered Nurse at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton, Montana for three years and Community Medical Center for one year. I then worked for Missoula County as an Infectious Disease Public Health Nurse and Medical Case Manager for Partnership Health Center. I worked here for around four years and these were some of my most enjoyable jobs as an RN. I then obtained my MSN/FNP and started working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as a Primary Care Provider at the local Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Kalispell, Montana.

[] What motivated you to pursue your MSN online? What advantages did you see to online education? Did the online program at Gonzaga University meet these expectations?

[Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC] I decided to pursue and obtain my graduate degree online at Gonzaga University as the program is a hybrid between online classes and also has components that are on campus at Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington a couple weekends a semester. This hybrid content allowed me to continue working part-time but also feel like I was obtaining some in-person education and the ability to develop skills that I would not be able to receive purely online.

The online program at Gonzaga University definitely met my expectations of what I needed to become a successful Family Nurse Practitioner. This program is well regarded and received in my state and nationally, and it also incorporates OCSE exams into the education, which I feel is important. Lastly, the program is ranked well compared to the state programs in Montana.

[] How did Gonzaga’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?

[Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC] The online program at Gonzaga University allowed me to interact with faculty members via Skype and also online via email and messenger. This is also how I interacted with my classmates and coordinated our learning on projects that we did together. The courses were asynchronous. They had components via online lectures that correlated to our clinical component so what we were learning through the online-recorded lectures and material matched clinicals. These courses being online allowed us to revisit and learn certain things at our own pace if the material was difficult. I interacted with faculty at least a couple of times a week and my instructors were very accessible to online students. I was able to always reach faculty via email, Messenger, or sometimes via phone call to their office and cell phones.

[] Gonzaga University’s online MSN program requires 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?

[Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC] Gonzaga’s program of activities on campus were definitely a pro/plus to the MSN program. While attending Gonzaga’s program, the limited campus visits were intensive, and I was able to learn a lot of assessment skills, orthopedic skills, and also complete OSCE, to make sure we were obtaining the needed clinical assessment skills and treatment for patient care. Also included in these weekend intensives were well woman exams, dermatological procedures, radiology readings skills, and other clinical skills. I chose Gonzaga’s program partly due to these on-campus sessions, which I felt helped me succeed better as a FNP.

[] 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 degree online?

[Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC] I feel that the online format gave me the ability to do learning, homework, and other assignments around my work and personal life. I also did not have to uproot my family and move them. It allowed for me to work part-time all through school which allowed me to have health insurance, etc. A major challenge was that I did not have set times to study and watch recorded lectures, so I had to stay motivated, be a self-starter, and also set and stick to a strict schedule.

Having the ability to be very organized, I was able to plan out my semester early on and set up a grid to complete everything. I was also very fortunate to have a classmate in the city I lived in Montana, and we frequently (weekly or more) got together to study and review materials for better understanding.

[] Clinical practicums are a major component of graduate nursing education. Can you briefly describe how Gonzaga 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?

[Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC] The transition from Registered Nurse to Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practiced Registered Nurse is a BIG one. Practicum experience is a large piece of this. I feel fortunate that a year ahead of time I started searching for possible preceptors. Gonzaga does not find placements for students and so this is a very important part of clinicals. Students need to contact appropriate NPs, physicians, and PAs in the appropriate fields and find out if they would be willing to take a NP student for an enumerated amount of time.

The successful transition from a RN to a NP/Healthcare provider is making sure you have very applicable clinicals, preceptors that teach you, and you go above and beyond the minimum required hours to make sure you have a solid baseline of knowledge by graduation. It is also one area I wish that we had more help with or that the Gonzaga had more established relationships with different sites, so as not to feel like we were being outcompeted by PA and medical students.

[] What advice would you give students just starting Gonzaga University’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 Gonzaga or another institution?

[Deven Robinson, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC] I would say that they should not simply base the decision on price and how “easy” the program is. You get what you pay for. I felt that although Gonzaga’s program may be more expensive than some programs, the quality, depth and breadth of knowledge you gain exceeds other programs.

The on-campus portions with inclusion of OSCE (something that sets Gonzaga program apart from other NP programs) shows that they go above and beyond what is simply required. This also makes sure that students are well prepared.

Thank you, Mr. Robinson, for participating in our alumni interview series, and sharing your experience as an online nursing 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.