About Karin Young, MSN, WHNP: Karin Young is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For the past two years, she has worked for Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC at a community OB/GYN clinic in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, where she sees upwards of 15 patients a day. Her first job as a Nurse Practitioner was with the Maternal/Fetal Medicine group at West Penn Hospital, part of the Allegheny Health Network.
Ms. Young holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Penn State Behrend, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2014, she earned her MSN through the University of Cincinnati’s online graduate nursing program, specializing as a WHNP.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background in nursing?
[Karin Young, MSN, WHNP] I received my BSN from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA in 2007. I then returned to Pittsburgh to begin my nursing career in labor and delivery. After several years of experience, my passion for women’s health led me to pursue my MSN degree. I completed the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Cincinnati in 2014. I then gained valuable experience with my first practitioner position with the Maternal/Fetal Medicine group at West Penn Hospital.
I currently work at a Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC community OB/GYN clinic in Wilkinsburg, PA. We facilitate numerous outreach programs, including Centering Pregnancy. The clinic is a nurse practitioner based facility with attending coverage provided by twice monthly physician sessions and by phone at any other time. I see a good mix of gynecological and obstetrical patients during my week. On average, our OB population is in the 50-70 patient range. My gynecological patients range across the lifespan, and I enjoy the challenge of providing care for adolescent and adult women at each stage. During an average day, I see between 15-20 patients.
[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 Cincinnati meet these expectations?
[Karin Young, MSN, WHNP] I originally attended a traditional “brick and mortar” MSN program. Although I enjoyed the program, planning a work schedule around several lecture days per week proved challenging. Furthermore, a WHNP program was not available in Pittsburgh at that time. A coworker suggested the online program at the University of Cincinnati. She had a friend that worked while attending the program and found that the support and flexibility worked well with her busy lifestyle.
The online MSN program afforded me the ability to attend school around my work schedule and once my twins arrived, around their schedule! The ability to pause and/or re-watch a lecture was a huge advantage of the online program for me. I tend to absorb information far better in small doses, so the ability to stop and look up information or take a break whenever I wanted was wonderful. In addition, the frequent contact with the professors, support staff, and my cohorts at UC created an ideal learning environment for me during my program.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] How did UC’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?
[Karin Young, MSN, WHNP] Most of the interaction that I had with faculty members and classmates was through online discussion boards and email. The courses were asynchronous with weekly lectures, presentations, and discussion posts. Several posts per week were often required to keep us engaged and interacting with our cohorts. Several group projects also served to facilitate interaction between students. During group projects, we often conferenced called once per week to check in on our individual progress.
Even though I was participating in distance learning, I felt that my professors were readily accessible and eager to assist me. Emails and phone calls were returned quickly and there were office hours in which the staff could be reached immediately by phone. One of my favorite aspects of the program at Cincinnati was the check-in phone calls received several times per semester by my program advisor. I never felt alone during my educational journey.
[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?
[Karin Young, MSN, WHNP] The pros of an online graduate nursing degree for me include the ability to continue to work as an RN and the flexibility to complete school work around my family’s needs. I also loved the fact that I could complete lectures and assignments at any time during the day. I tend to be the most focused early in the morning. If I had been required to attend set lecture times, I may not have absorbed as much as I did attending on my own schedule. Also, cutting out the commute time to campus provided even more flexibility with my busy schedule.
I loved being around other students during my undergraduate years. I enjoyed study groups, the comradery, and the overall feeling of academia. Naturally, the biggest con of online learning for me was the lack of those things. However, I did get to know a few of my cohorts, some of which I remain in contact with to this day. Another thing to consider with online learning is that you must be extremely organized and disciplined. There were days that I had other obligations distracting me, but I had to force myself to sit down and complete my coursework. Even when you enjoy the material, it can be challenging to stay independently focused.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Clinical practicums are a major component of graduate nursing education. Can you briefly describe how the University of Cincinnati 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?
[Karin Young, MSN, WHNP] I was lucky enough to have clinical preceptors readily available to me, because of the contacts that I had made during my years as an OB nurse. I completed my first clinical rotation in an internal medicine/family practice office. This experience was challenging, but valuable because it took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to master basic primary care. The remainder of my rotations focused on women’s healthcare. My preceptors did an excellent job of letting me fly on my own and see patients independently once I became comfortable. In addition to the new practical and charting skills, learning the workflow, how to interact with patients and staff, and successful time management were some of the most important teachings that I gained from clinical. I felt well prepared after completing the required number of clinical hours.
The best advice that I can give for future and current students is to network! Building rapport with potential preceptors and carefully choosing mentors that will aid you in your journey are crucially important tasks. Transitioning from an RN to a health care provider requires a shift in your practice theory. Instead of following orders, you will now be required to understand, assess, diagnose, and treat disease and normal health processes. Having skilled and supportive professionals to back you during this change is paramount.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] What advice would you give students just starting UC’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 the University of Cincinnati or another institution?
[Karin Young, MSN, WHNP] Get organized! As soon as you get the syllabus for the course, sit down and map out the reading assignments, projects, and test dates. Make sure that you schedule dedicated, uninterrupted time for study into your week. I set aside a minimum of 3-4 hours every day during the week. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of family members and friends to accomplish this. The more help, the better! If you can help to prevent getting overwhelmed, it is far easier to stay focused.
I thought of graduate school as my main occupation during my time at Cincinnati. I was fortunate enough to only work two 12 hour shifts as an RN on the weekend, but even that was challenging at times. You will likely need to make certain social and economic sacrifices during your program, and sometimes it will feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Nevertheless, if you remain disciplined and put in the required effort and hours, it is achievable. Completing your online degree is a huge undertaking, but I promise it will be worth it!
When researching a program, do not be afraid to call and speak with an admissions counselor or staff member. It is so important to choose a school that offers easily accessible support. The required number of clinical hours in a program should also be considered. The more supervised experience that you can gain during your training, the smoother your transition as a new advanced practice provider will be. Also, ask around! Hearing first-hand experience was valuable and made me more confident in choosing the right program.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] What type of support services does the University of Cincinnati offer online students? Did the school offer career services, and if so, did you use them and find them helpful?
[Karin Young, MSN, WHNP] The support services at the University of Cincinnati were extremely helpful during my online program. I was in frequent contact with my program advisor and felt comfortable reaching out to her with any concerns or questions. Emails and phone calls were answered promptly by both my advisor and professors. Job postings were made available to us through the school, which was helpful and encouraging. Overall, I felt well supported during my time at Cincinnati and believe that I received a quality education.
Thank you, Ms. Young, for participating in our alumni interview series, and sharing your experience as an online nursing student!