Between working part-time as a registered nurse (RN) in critical care, learning full-time as a graduate student in the online Nursing@Simmons family nurse practitioner (FNP) program, running marathons as an endurance athlete, and raising three kids as a single mom, Stacy Jones is constantly on the go.
“My seven-year-old is in second grade, my 12-year-old is a sixth grader, and I have a freshman in high school who’s 14,” she says. “They’re at three different schools and their bus pick-up times are seven, eight, and nine. So it’s only from then until noon that I can really focus on my studies. From there, it’s off to a quick workout, two hours of bus drop-offs, helping the kids with their homework and after-school activities, making dinner, and then joining my online study group for a couple of hours in the evening.”
Stacy’s weekends aren’t any less hectic, with Saturdays typically dedicated to completing exams and every other Sunday spent working as an RN at the University of Maryland Baltimore-Washington Medical Center for 12 hours straight—the minimum hours she needs to remain up-to-date on her certifications while in the FNP program. “Believe it or not, that shift is my reset day!” she laughs.
Amid the hustle and bustle of daily life, Stacy remains driven to provide the best intensive and critical care she knows how. “As a kid, I spent a lot of time in the hospital with two of my cousins born with a congenital heart condition,” she says. “I had high admiration for the nurses there and always viewed them as superhuman. They worked long shifts, maintained such grace, and were just always there. Nurses really are an important part of your experience when you’re in the hospital.”
Stacy has now served in that very role she revered—RN—for over 18 years.
The nurses she looked up to are also what motivated Stacy to accelerate her education with a master’s. She originally considered becoming an FNP a couple of years into her career, but life yielded other plans. “I started a family and that became my priority, so advancing myself shifted to the back burner,” she says. “Once all my kids were in school, my mind went back to that goal. As a single mom in the D.C. area where the cost of living is pretty high, I can’t continue to provide the opportunities I want for my children on an RN salary. Becoming an FNP will not only increase my earning potential, it also promises to give me more autonomy and respect in my career. I just needed a master’s program that would fit into my busy schedule—or else it was going to be a deal-breaker.”
As a registered nurse, single mom, endurance athlete, and full-time graduate student, Stacy's a pro at running marathons, literally and figuratively
Quality, Flexibility, and Proven Results
In her search for the right nursing master’s program, Stacy gravitated toward online options that also had a brick-and-mortar foundation.
“From where I live in Maryland, I couldn’t spend half my day commuting with traffic back and forth into Baltimore or D.C.,” she says. “Who’d get my kids on and off the bus? I also needed a program with a solid reputation. I have several friends who’ve gone through strictly online programs, and their experience was extremely stressful. They either weren’t able to find clinical placements or they constantly felt their school was at risk of losing its accreditation. Or worse, they couldn’t pass their boards because the program didn’t truly prepare them.”
Stacy soon found herself drawn to Simmons University, with its long history of quality nursing education combined with its 97.8% ANCC board pass rate in 2020.¹ “That pass rate was incredibly important to me,” she says. “With the brick-and-mortar aspect and the promise of a couple of in-person immersion weekends in Boston, all of that gave me peace of mind in the investment I was about to make.”
Once the pandemic hit, Stacy felt even more assured by the viability of the online Nursing@Simmons program and began her studies in November 2020. “There’s a nice balance of asynchronous learning and live online classes where everyone’s in Zoom together,” she says. “We also have flex classes offered multiple times a week in the morning and evening, which makes them easier to fit into our lives. That also means you can attend the same lecture more than once, if you need more clarity around a topic or want to hear questions from different students.”
Though Simmons was forced to cancel immersions due to COVID, Stacy still found a thriving sense of community with her cohort. “About a dozen of us have formed a regular study group to talk about what we’re learning, create study slides together, and quiz each other,” she says. “That camaraderie and support has been a lifesaver for me. Some of us are younger and more tech savvy, while others like me have a lot of clinical experience and insight to share. We’ve got everyone from a new mother to nurses with ER backgrounds, so we’re a wealth of knowledge for each other. Everyone brings something to the table.”
“The World Is My Oyster”
Entering her final two terms, Stacy has begun conversations with her 2U-provided placement specialist to determine where she’ll conduct her required clinical fieldwork that will help her put theory into practice. Taking into account their location, placement specialists manage the logistics that come with finding and securing quality clinical experiences needed to practice the micro and macro skills vital to becoming a reputable FNP. For Stacy, the plan is to explore a broad spectrum of placement opportunities, from pediatric to primary care to women’s health.
“Working with a placement specialist is such a differentiator for Simmons,” she says, “because otherwise the legwork can be grueling. Though I’ve worked in my community for over 15 years and have developed a pretty strong network, someone holding your hand through all those moving parts totally takes the weight off. It lets you keep focusing on what really matters, which is your education.”
Stacy also looks forward to her clinical placements informing her post-graduation plans. “My interests in health and fitness are a big part of why I wanted to move from RN to FNP,” she says. “I have a passion for improving people’s lives through prevention and maintaining a healthy lifestyle—and by moving to primary care, I can do more of that. Already, so much of what I’ve learned in the program has informed my current practice. I’ve been transitioning from understanding what doctors are doing to why they’re making those decisions. So I feel like the world is my oyster right now, but those clinicals are where I know I’m going to find my niche.”
Above all, Stacy takes her education very seriously, knowing her patients and her children are all depending on her in the pursuit of healthier and more fulfilling lives. “That’s why I need to put the same amount of intensity into my learning as I do my endurance running,” she says. “I want to come out on the other side being 100% prepared to serve my community to the best of my ability. I also want to continue to be a role model for my kids—I hope they’ll aspire to be lifelong learners, too, and have the confidence to pursue their own dreams. Nursing@Simmons is a great program to set me up for that next level of success.”
¹ The Simmons graduate ANCC pass rate statistic includes both on-campus and online students who took the exam in 2020. Simmons graduates, both on-campus and online students, had a 97.8% ANCC pass rate.
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