Dr. Gwen Leigh spent more than a decade as an emergency room and intensive care unit nurse. During that time, she frequently served another role as a resource and guide for new nurses.
“I always liked helping new nurses and nursing students, orienting them,” Dr. Leigh says. “That led me to nursing education — to make sure new nurses have a good foundation.”
After earning her Master of Science in Nursing and her Doctor of Nursing Practice, Dr. Leigh joined the University of Louisiana at Lafayette College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions in 1997.
Dr. Leigh was among the first to lay the foundations of online instruction in nursing as well as the University as a whole when the University began offering its first fully online programs nearly a decade ago.
Since that time, the University has expanded its online degree programs to include five undergraduate programs, four graduate certificate programs, and seven graduate programs.
Five of the University’s online programs — Health Services Administration, RN to BSN, Master of Science in Nursing, a Graduate Certificate in Cardiovascular Nursing, and Doctor of Nursing Practice — are offered by the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions.
Dr. Leigh now teaches one of the core courses for the MSN online program — Generating Evidence for Nursing Practice (NURS 502).
“Most of my students are going to be nurse practitioners. They’re going to be prescribing and diagnosing. By the end of the semester, they have a grasp of how published evidence is going to affect what they’re actually going to be doing in clinics,” Dr. Leigh says.
“We expand this throughout the program. In their other courses, they use published evidence to develop an entire program of how they would use this to teach their patients on what’s the best treatment for their diabetes or their hypertension.”
Students who complete UL Lafayette’s online MSN program gain the knowledge and skills to improve the health of diverse populations, enter nursing education, and pursue a doctoral degree. Online coursework allows students to continue working, choosing when and where to complete assignments.
Dr. Leigh says she’s mindful that her students are practicing nurses, so she explores various technologies to connect with and support them.
“For example, if I find that a student makes the same mistake on more than one paper, then obviously my written comments aren’t making sense to them so I’ll provide feedback in a VoiceThread or tell them we need to spend five minutes on the phone,” she says.
VoiceThread allows instructors and students to create audio and video that can be easily shared for presenting or providing feedback.
Dr. Leigh says she also uses live video conferencing so students can ask questions and hear from their peers.
“For big papers, I’ll set up an hourlong Zoom meeting in which students can log in to ask questions,” she says. “Most of my graduate students are working so I do it during their lunch break. I’m there the whole hour, but they can just log in from their phone for five minutes and talk to me about their paper and then they can log out. And I always record those so if someone can’t log in for some reason, they can go back and hear what others were asking.”
Being mindful and connected to students — whether they’re on campus or online — is what Dr. Leigh says makes UL Lafayette’s nursing programs stand out.
“I think our faculty make our program unique. We have a strong faculty with a lot of good clinical experience behind us,” she says. “Our students really like coming here.
“We listen to our students a lot, and we’re always trying to make this better for the students.”
Request information today about UL Lafayette’s accredited and highly ranked Master of Science in Nursing with both family nurse practitioner and nursing education tracks.