Kris Bolling has always felt she was hardwired to help others. After college, she set her sights on a career in health care and never looked back. For Kris, nursing is the ideal juncture of passion and purpose, combining her lifelong love of science with a calling to help people. “Nursing is about more than just writing prescriptions,” said Kris. “It’s about making a meaningful connection with patients so that they want to come back and see you again.”
After earning her associate’s degree in nursing, Kris decided to further her career by pursuing a Master of Science through the Online Family Nurse Practitioner Program, Nursing@Simmons. As a mother of three living in New Berlin, Wisconsin, she was grateful to have discovered a program that suited her needs. “Life would have gotten in the way had I gone the brick-and-mortar route,” said Kris. “Simmons gave me the flexibility I needed. Without it, I don’t know how I would have completed my education in the timeframe that I did.”
Kris had taken a handful of traditional, message board-based online courses in the past, but they were never enough for her. “If you want to learn a whole new skill set and take on the responsibilities of health care, you need to review material face-to-face, ask questions, and have a real relationship with instructors.”
With Nursing@Simmons, she was able to do just that. “It was completely different from my past experiences with online education,” said Kris. Through regular live sessions, classmates and instructors became much more than names on a screen. “It was easy to form bonds since I saw everyone’s faces in a virtual classroom each week. We still keep in touch.”
During Immersion Weekend, Kris was able to solidify these relationships by traveling to the Simmons School of Nursing campus in Boston. There, she met with peers and instructors, attended a variety of clinical seminars and workshops, and even conducted a head-to-toe physical examination as preparation for her future as a family nurse practitioner. “It was a very fun and very productive weekend,” said Kris. “We had time to connect face-to-face with everyone—and make lasting person-to-person connections.”
Finding her place
After returning from Immersion Weekend, Kris was ready to start her clinical rotations. For her, securing these positions couldn’t have been easier—she simply gave her Nursing@Simmons clinical placement specialist a list of leads, and “he took care of the rest.”
Through three different placements, Kris gained exposure to occupational health, family practice, and walk-in care. Since nursing is such a hands-on profession, these experiences were critical to her learning process. “I do family practice now, and I’m well-prepared,” said Kris.
Quality classes—and quality care
For Kris, one of the greatest benefits of Nursing@Simmons was studying with people who pushed her to achieve her fullest potential. “It’s a very rigorous program,” said Kris. “Instructors hold you to extremely high standards, and they don’t teach to the test. You have to know what you’re doing to succeed.” This dedication to quality made choosing a favorite course nearly impossible. “I never had a bad one,” said Kris, “because I was always learning from people who truly love what they do.”
Throughout the program, Kris enjoyed reading her instructors’ online biographies and seeing how passion had manifested itself in their professional lives. “They were such great examples for their students,” she said. “You could tell how much they cared about the field.”
One instructor who inspires her to this day is Dr. Linda Del Vecchio-Gilbert. “I think back to her Primary Care Nursing course a lot,” said Kris. “She always emphasized the human element of health care and reminded us that we weren’t merely memorizing treatment regimens. She’d ask, ‘What are you doing—and why?’”
Prescribing lifelong learning
Since graduating from Nursing@Simmons in 2016, Kris has continued to apply academic lessons to her professional life. “My instructors taught me to always keep learning,” said Kris. “Once you graduate, you’re not done. You join committees, you work on improvement projects, you learn about new medications. The faculty at Simmons was constantly achieving more.” And this has encouraged Kris to do the same.
In her free time, Kris actively studies emerging medical information to stay ahead in the industry. As a family nurse practitioner in suburban Wisconsin, she’s also made a point of bringing more special needs patients into her care. The mother of a child on the autism spectrum, Kris knows how hard it can be to find a local doctor who understands the challenges faced by special needs patients. “I have a small glimpse into that world,” said Kris—so she’s committed to helping in any way possible.
As the next step in her educational journey, Kris is pursuing her doctorate through Nursing@Simmons.
“It was so good that I went back.”
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