Alumni Interview with Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC – University of South Alabama

About Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC: Tierra McGlothin is a board-certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, currently working full time for the Florida Department of Corrections. She also holds part-time positions at the University of Miami Hospital, and Miami Dade College as an adjunct faculty member. Prior to becoming an NP, Ms. McGlothin worked as an RN for six years, starting out at the University of Mississippi Medical Center before moving into travel nursing, with assignments in California, Texas, and Florida.

Ms. McGlothin earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Alcorn State University in 2010, and was named Nurse Rookie of the Year by the Mississippi Nurses Association in 2012. She completed her MSN in 2016 through the online PMHNP program at the University of South Alabama.

Interview Questions

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

[Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC] I received a BSN from Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi in 2010. My initial RN experience consisted of medical/surgical and intensive care nursing. My first job was at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was chosen as Nurse Rookie of the Year in 2011. Thereafter, I went on to win the Mississippi Nurses Association state award for Rookie of the Year in 2012. After three years, I ventured into travel nursing where I completed assignments at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, Keck Medical Center of USC in Los Angeles, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami.

After six years of nursing, I completed the MSN program at the University of South Alabama in 2016 and became board certified as a Psychiatric Mental Health NP in March 2017. Currently, I work full-time for Florida Department of Corrections State Prison providing psychiatric evaluations, mental health screenings, and medication management via Telemedicine to inmates throughout the State of Florida. I also work at the University of Miami Hospital, part-time, in the inpatient adult unit. In addition, I am on staff at Miami Dade College as adjunct faculty for the associate degree nursing program. Within the next two years, I am hoping to start a DNP program and gain experience in child psychiatry.

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

[Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC] I researched and sought advice from nurses who had experience with online programs and received many pros about this type of program. I was working as a travel nurse and felt this type of program would complement my lifestyle at that time. I felt the advantages of online education were a flexible schedule, self-paced learning, and I could continue to work as a travel nurse. The flexible schedule and self-paced learning were what I expected at the University of South Alabama’s (USA) program. However, the idea of traveling as a nurse became difficult as it came time to find clinical sites. I decided to stay in Miami, Florida to have more stability and to build relationships in the community.

[] How did USA’s online platform enable you to interact with faculty members and classmates? Were lectures 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?

[Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC] USA utilized Sakai as its online e-learning platform. This program was user friendly. Sakai offered a section for discussion boards where assignments were posted for instructors and peers to discuss topics and give feedback. It also provided a tool to assist with group assignments and projects to store documents and share information. Otherwise, most interactions between peers and instructors were via email or phone.

Lectures were minimally used. If used, they were pre-recorded. Non-narrated power point presentations were mostly utilized. The semesters were broken into units and course work/readings were assigned for each unit at the beginning of each semester. The student was expected to review material at their own pace. I emailed instructors 1-2 times a month when facing questionable or difficult content. The expected response time from instructors was 24-48 hours. Overall, instructors responded within 48 hours but there were some occasions where it was more than 72 hours.

[] The University of South Alabama’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?

[Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC] The Psychiatric Mental Health track did not require on-campus visits. There were mandatory live online orientations each fall. You are grouped based on your cohort or semester in the program. There was a question and answer session in the end of the orientation where students could ask questions. I found this very informative.

When I was researching programs, I was hoping to find a program that did not require onsite visits. I was hoping to save money where possible and felt it could become expensive. However, in hindsight I feel that it would have been beneficial to meet peers and instructors face-to-face to help in building relationships. I found it isolating at times not having the type of peer support as I did while in the undergraduate program.

[] 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?

[Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC] There were pros and cons as well as challenges encountered during this program. Major pros of pursuing a graduate online nursing degree include: flexibility of school schedule to learn and study at your own pace, in-state tuition for Mississippi residents, and no expenses spent to commute to class. On the other hand, major cons include: students independently find own practicum sites, minimal peer support, and wait time for instructors to respond to emails or calls. Some semesters I thought I would have to drop the course because of difficulty finding practicum sites.

There were also challenges encountered during the program. First, I found it difficult to find and secure clinical practicum sites. Secondly, my Mac computer was incompatible with some of the online programs which required me to purchase additional program software. It was also challenging for me to maintain a full-time job with 180 clinical hours a semester. On the contrary, I most enjoyed the clinical component and applying new knowledge and research into practice.

[] Clinical practicums are a major component of graduate nursing education. Can you briefly describe how the University of South Alabama 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?

[Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC] Students are responsible to find their own clinical placements in the graduate online program at USA. USA provides a list of affiliated sites established by previous students. Unfortunately, there were no previously established psychiatric mental health sites in my area. This was the most challenging part of being in this program. I started my search a year before my clinical rotation would begin and didn’t secure a site until two weeks before the clinical rotation would begin. Some barriers include: shortage of psychiatric NPs and psychiatrists in my area, the few that were there already had students or jobs that didn’t allow preceptees, most of the hospitals have contracts with local/state colleges or just would not sign a contract with an out of state school.

Some strategies that were helpful included joining a professional organization and traveling to another state. Strategies that weren’t effective were paying an online company to help match students with preceptors and cold calling offices. Although this process was extremely stressful, it encouraged more independence. I learned how to network in professional settings and had the opportunity to work with four different preceptors and learn different interview styles and techniques. These skills have been key components that helped shape my transition from RN to NP.

[] What advice would you give students just starting USA’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 South Alabama or another institution?

[Tierria McGlothin, MSN, ARNP, PMHNP-BC] The following is advice for those interested in pursuing an online graduate nursing program. First, evaluate your learning style and motivation level. It takes a disciplined, self-motivated individual to be successful in an online program. Consider a part-time job instead of full-time to allow time for studies, family, and self. Apply for the program with a friend or make friends with classmates. Look for practicum sites as soon as you receive the acceptance letter into the program. Finally, stay as organized as possible by purchasing a calendar, make schedules, and stick to it!

Thank you, Ms. McGlothin, 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.