Alumni Interview with Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C – University of Cincinnati

About Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C: Kathy Newell works as an Adult Nurse Practitioner for Encompass Family Physicians Medical Group in La Mesa, California. She has five years of experience as an NP, practicing in a number of clinics and medical centers in Southern California. Before her current role, Ms. Newell spent four years with Coastal Medical Weight Loss Centers in San Diego, while also holding positions at ResCare Workforce Services and Earth Vitality Center.

Ms. Newell earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from National University in 2008. In 2010, she entered the online MSN Adult Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Cincinnati, graduating with her Master of Science in Nursing in 2012.

Interview Questions:

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

[Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C] My name is Kathy Newell and I am an Adult Nurse Practitioner at Encompass Family Physicians Medical Group in La Mesa, CA where we provide primary care services. I have been working part time as an NP since I graduated from the University of Cincinnati online MSN/ANP program in 2012. I have been practicing primary care for over a year now and am enjoying every minute. I have a great patient base and following, and focus on acute illness, chronic illness and preventative care. Before this current position, I was hired right after I graduated to work autonomously in a nurse practitioner owned clinic for bariatrics and weight loss in San Diego. This was my first role as a new nurse practitioner, and I was able to develop my skills and learn so much in the 4 years that I worked at this clinic.

I graduated from nursing school in 2008 from National University in San Diego with my BSN, and began my career as an RN in acute care. In 2009, my husband, who was in the Air Force at the time, received orders to move to Delaware. Once established, I worked in critical care part time and as a GI nurse part time. I began the UC online MSN/ANP program in 2010, and by the time I was finished with the program in 2012, I had 4 years of nursing experience under my belt.

[] 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?

[Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C] I knew I wanted to be a nurse practitioner early on in my nursing career. Although I loved being in the hospital and enjoyed my career, I felt a drive to learn more and be able to treat patients on a higher level than I was capable. I chose University of Cincinnati’s online MSN/ANP program because my husband was in the military and we could get orders at any time to move. I was concerned that if I was enrolled at a local college, the difficulty of relocating during such a program would make it very difficult for me to complete. With UC’s program, I was still able to work full time and complete my courses on my own time. This program was the only way that I could further my education under my circumstances and I was grateful that I was accepted!

[] 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?

[Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C] UC’s program was tailored for interaction with faculty, professors and classmates. We were always in communication, and the students that were in the same programs were able to continue each course mostly at the same time. I was able to familiarize myself with the other students in the ANP program, which made it easier for projects, study sessions, questions, discussion boards, etc. The instructors were always accessible when I had concerns, questions, etc. I always felt that the instructors were rooting for us and truly wanted us to excel in the program. The courses were a combination, with the first year course work being synchronous, and once clinicals/practicums were in effect, the courses were asynchronous. I think this was important to focus on one practicum at a time during clinicals.

[] 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?

[Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C] I would say that there were mostly pros to doing my MSN online. The program allowed me to work full time and continue my education full time which would have been very difficult if enrolled in a program on campus. A con would be the nature of technology and connectivity issues that come along with doing an online program. During my capstone project, my computer decided to fail me and I remember praying that Geek Squad would be able to recover my project (which they did!).

Another con would be the fact that I was on my own for my practicums. Although we were able to discuss our experiences with students online, sometimes just venting to people going through what you are going through helps with the stress of it all. My husband was going through his MBA program at the same time, so stress was high in our household and our stresses were very different.

Overall, I would not be where I am today without UC’s online program. It was the best decision I ever made. I am now able to work part time and be home with my kids the other half of the time and I have the best of both worlds.

[] 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?

[Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C] UC’s online program did not find placements for practicums for the students. I was on my own to find my own preceptor and specialty. This was stressful for me just because we were new to the area and I had just begun working after our relocation. I was able to find practicum locations and preceptors by calling around and asking my colleagues if they knew any MDs or NPs that would take on students. I was able to do my practicums in family practice, urgent care, hospice, and GI, all which were areas that interested me. All my preceptors were wonderful, and I was able to precept with both doctors and NPs. I feel that life would have been somewhat easier if I did not have to find my preceptors independently, but I understand that students are taking these courses from all over and the difficulty in this would have been great.

I recommend that students take every opportunity to learn, and to try to precept with both MDs and NPs. I really learned so much from all my preceptors and although there might have been some differences, it allowed me to find my own way as a provider. Also, be open minded. School is so different from real life practice. For example, my least favorite practicum was family practice. I was so uncomfortable and felt overwhelmed with the amount of information that family practice entailed, I never thought that I would be working in family practice today and enjoying it!

[] 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?

[Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C] I tell everyone about UC’s online MSN/ANP program. Graduate school is never easy, especially when you have other responsibilities that are being juggled, but it can be done! This program allows you to be able to work while going to school and they want you to succeed. Even if you are unsure whether you want to be an NP or not, gather the information, talk to a counselor and they will be able to give you a glimpse of the courses and what the schedule will be like. If online schooling is new to you, it is ok. The program is pretty user friendly and once you get used to using Blackboard and seeing how the classes run, it becomes easier. Help is always there for you, and there were always video instructions available on how to use Blackboard, upload documents, open documents, etc. Expect to work hard, have long nights and to be studying all the time, but it will only better you and your future. It was the best decision I have made in my career.

[] 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?

[Kathy Newell, MSN, NP-C] Before I even started the program I was assigned an academic advisor who discussed the program with me in length, gave me my course schedule and was available to answer any question, or direct any question I had to the appropriate person. I felt settled knowing that there was always someone available that I had access to when needed. I always received prompt responses back as well. There were times that I had issues with Blackboard and there was always tech support available. As far as career services, I am not sure about what UC had to offer. I did not pursue this type of service because we relocated right after I graduated UC. I was very happy with all the services I was able to utilize at UC.

Thank you, Ms. Newell, 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.