About Peter Granderson, MSN, FNP: Peter Granderson works as a Family Nurse Practitioner at Community Clinic in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, where he provides care to many uninsured and underinsured patients. Prior to this position, Mr. Granderson was employed by the Community Physicians Group in Arkansas.
Mr. Granderson earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2007. After graduation, he relocated to Colorado, and enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing program at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), specializing as an FNP. Mr. Granderson moved back to Arkansas after a year, but continued with UCCS’s MSN FNP program by completing his studies online. He graduated with his MSN in 2011.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background in nursing?
[Peter Granderson, MSN, FNP] My nursing career started with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Arkansas at Monticello. I graduated in 2007 and moved to Colorado Springs, and starting work on a medical-surgical unit. Within a few months I started enrollment with University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for their Family Nurse Practitioner program and began classes the following Fall. Initially I intended to do a mixture of on-site and online classes. However, the online program was easiest to fit around my full-time work schedule.
After a year, I relocated back to Arkansas and continued the FNP program while working at an emergency room. Even after starting clinicals, I was able to keep a near-fulltime work schedule. I graduated in 2011 and started primary care practice within a few months. Now, going on six years later, I am working with Community Clinic in Northwest Arkansas, a medical system that aims particularly to provide care for the uninsured and underinsured.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] What motivated you to pursue your MSN online? What advantages did you see to online education? Did the online program at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs meet these expectations?
[Peter Granderson, MSN, FNP] When I started the UCCS FNP program, I initially intended to do a mixture of on-site and online classes. Being on-site has a different feel to online, and is in some regards preferable. However, I ended up completing the program 100% online for two primary reasons:
First, it allowed me to continue full-time or almost full-time work throughout the entire program. I did not accrue any additional debt throughout the entire FNP program, which I consider a remarkable benefit to online NP programs, especially when compared to the high debt that many medical students accumulate.
Second, the online program allowed me to relocate without having to transfer programs. There were challenges in the relocation, but not nearly the challenges that would have arisen had I had to transfer credits and start at a new school.
One could say that the UCCS online program met my expectations in both regards, but it would be truer to say that I never had such high expectations of graduate school. Their online program far exceeded my expectations in this regard.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] How did UCCS’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?
[Peter Granderson, MSN, FNP] UCCS’s program was asynchronous, which maximized its flexibility. Lectures were presented weekly in videos with accompanying documents, notes, and reading assignments. Occasionally, student video presentations, group papers, and other special projects were included.
I believe the strongest aspect of UCCS’s online program was the guided discussions. Every week, mini-presentations (often involving case-reports) were required of students, followed by both peer and teacher review and comment. Both the presentations and reviews had to have evidence-citations. These conversation-threads were well executed and often fascinating, reflecting many well-though-out perspectives, both on the part of students and professors.
This extended beyond just the discussions. In fact, having gone through nursing programs both completely onsite (undergraduate) and online (graduate), I have come to realize that online can offer one-on-one feedback that onsite lacks. Whether in discussions with peers or project feedback from faculty, I was very pleased with the amount of high-quality feedback and critique I received.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] 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?
[Peter Granderson, MSN, FNP] The weaknesses of studying nursing online can be divided into two categories: First, the relationships formed with faculty and students are rarely going to be as strong as in onsite programs, and there is a different, perhaps less fun, tone to online study. It tends to be work-focused with little casual conversation.
Second, hands-on skills may be lacking. While onsite (or mixed-format) programs can easily incorporate suturing or orthopedic labs, online programs will generally rely on the clinical sites to teach these things. I was blessed with a clinical site that had a wide variety of resources and procedures done on-site, but many smaller clinical sites may simply not be able provide the “lab” experiences needed.
The strengths of the online program have already been noted, and are substantial: The flexibility is unparalleled. Further, at least in my experiences with both onsite and online, the peer-peer and peer-faculty discussions are much more extensive and the feedback consequently richer.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Clinical practicums are a major component of graduate nursing education. Can you briefly describe how the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs 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?
[Peter Granderson, MSN, FNP] Because I relocated out-of-state prior to starting clinical practicum rotations, UCCS did not help me to secure clinical sites. I found out quickly how hard it can be to get a foothold into a clinic. One clinical site contact was interested, but the facility was associated with a larger hospital system that did not have a contract with UCCS. Other clinics simply did not answer my attempts to contact. I was finally able to make a contact within a moderate-sized group consisting of many providers, both physicians and nurse practitioners. From that point on, I was able to arrange clinical rotations with multiple providers without difficulty. It is my understanding that UCCS now either requires or strongly encourages students to be within range of clinic systems with which they already have working relationships.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] What advice would you give students just starting UCCS’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 UCCS or another institution?
[Peter Granderson, MSN, FNP] To a student just starting in an online program, I would say: Go for it! But here are a few suggestions along the way: First, use the online format to its full advantage. The discussions and feedback in the online format can be excellent, but you will learn best from them if you go above-and-beyond the minimum requirements. Do your research for what you post and for the papers you write. Make it rich and pithy. Use good online references like Dynamed and Uptodate, but also go for the primary sources – Cochrane reviews and original studies. And don’t be afraid to challenge the guidelines and prevailing thought – after all, this field is about evidence, not expert opinion. Online programs, and UCCS’s particularly, can be an excellent means by which to get a taste for research, debate, and challenging the status quo – so read-up and then make your case!
Second, I would encourage you to look for potential holes in your online learning and then seek to fill those, either with carefully chosen clinical experiences, or perhaps with an on-site class or lab. Is your primary-care clinical site lacking in orthopedics? Talk to your professor about a clinical rotation that includes this, or perhaps see if you can work-in a semester of onsite at your university to cover this. Little chance to suture at your geriatric clinical site? Attend a conference that includes suturing labs. All such lab-experiences can be had, but the online format will put more of the onus on you to make sure they occur.
Thank you, Mr. Granderson, for participating in our alumni interview series, and sharing your experience as an online FNP student!