About Katie Caldwell, DNP, CNM: Katie Caldwell is a Certified Nurse Midwife who works for a private practice in Winter Park, Florida. Prior to becoming a laborist, she worked as a full scope CNM at two different facilities, and started her nursing career as part of an inpatient adult psychiatric unit.
Ms. Caldwell completed her MSN in Nurse Midwifery through the online program at the University of Cincinnati, and worked as a labor and delivery nurse during her studies. She also holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background in nursing?
[Katie Caldwell, DNP, CNM] I received my BSN from Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. After graduation, I moved to Pittsburgh to take my first nursing position on an inpatient adult psychiatric unit. I knew I wanted to work in labor and delivery before I even graduated so when the opportunity arose, I took it. I took a new position as a labor and delivery nurse at a different hospital in Pittsburgh, and worked there throughout my master’s program.
I received my MSN in Nurse Midwifery from the University of Cincinnati through their distance-learning program. I completed most of my nurse midwifery clinical rotations at Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. After graduation, I worked as a full scope CNM at two different facilities before becoming a laborist. I am currently a hospital-based Certified Nurse Midwife with a private practice in Winter Park, Florida.
[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?
[Katie Caldwell, DNP, CNM] The flexibility of taking classes online motivated me to pursue my MSN online. I had taken quite a few online classes in my undergraduate studies and they worked out well for me. One of the advantages of online education was the ability to work at somewhat of my own pace. Yes, there were deadlines I had to meet, but I could work one thing for hours in a day and then come back to it a couple days later. Financially, I was able to maintain my full-time nursing position, which I did not have the option of not working. The online program at the University of Cincinnati met my expectations for an online program. It was organized, well thought-out, and efficient.
[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?
[Katie Caldwell, DNP, CNM] UC used Blackboard, which was user friendly. There were many different options/methods to interact with faculty and classmates within the platform, including discussion boards, recorded and live video/audio feeds, and emails. For the most part, instruction was asynchronous. Clinical and didactic courses took place side by side, unlike some MSN programs I have heard of that front load didactic and then clinical at the end. I interacted with the faculty multiple times a week, some weeks less than others. The faculty was always available to us with virtual office hours, email, and cell phone. I never felt like I was left to the wolves and unable to get a hold of faculty.
[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?
[Katie Caldwell, DNP, CNM] The pros were flexibility, completing coursework at your own pace, and being able to work. Some of the cons were that you missed the face-to-face interaction and learning that can only take place in person. There was not as strong of a bond with faculty and classmates because everything was online. Some challenges came from difficult assignments that would have been better explained or helped in person.
It was challenging to keep up with all the reading and assignments sometimes while continuing to work to pay the bills. I just had to refocus on what I needed to get done and power through it. I did not have a social life the entire time. Finding clinical preceptors seemed to be a huge challenge for us that did not live near the campus. It is hard for the school to have connections all over the country. I enjoyed the autonomy, self-paced environment, and ability to work and learn at the same time. An on-campus program would have made it near impossible to maintain a full work schedule.
[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?
[Katie Caldwell, DNP, CNM] For clinical placements, it was the responsibility of the student to find appropriate preceptors. The clinical coordinator does have a running list of previous preceptors from around the country, but it is not a guarantee that there will be someone willing on that list where you live. They gave us tips on how to approach and find preceptors. Luckily, once I got my first preceptor, the rest kind of fell into place for the rest of the clinical courses. It is easier and helpful if you have personal or work connections to find a preceptor. Start looking early but also understand that sometimes it is too early for a preceptor to commit and that circumstances change. You should have some backups in mind.
I had a great preceptor that made the transition from RN to CNM easier. She pushed me in clinical and gave me autonomy and confidence to feel comfortable when I was done with school. I have heard from other students that their preceptors never let them actually do tasks, assessments, etc. By not actually doing them or having a lot of practice, it makes transitioning a lot harder because you are not confident and experienced. I feel like charting and billing in clinical sometimes takes a back seat to hands-on tasks. My preceptor had me doing all the documentation and doing the billing. It really made the whole picture come together, and I was so much more prepared for my first job than others I talked with.
[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?
[Katie Caldwell, DNP, CNM] My advice for someone considering an online MSN program is that you have to have a good sense of what type of learner you are and how disciplined you are. You have to stay on top of your reading, assignments, and projects on your own time. If you are someone that is not self-disciplined to keep yourself on task or comfortable with self-teaching, online education is not a good option. I would also suggest having a general idea of the big picture and big assignments for the course but focus mainly on the tasks for the week. If you break it down by what you need to do on a weekly basis, it makes it much more manageable.
Thank you, Ms. Caldwell, for participating in our alumni interview series, and sharing your experience as an online nursing student!