For Jay Book, earning his Master of Science in Nursing degree this spring is a significant milestone, but it isn’t the finish line.
“Eventually I hope to open my own rural primary health clinic one day, because I'm working in a nurse-practitioner-owned primary care clinic for my clinical hours and I love it,” says Book. "It's fantastic —the relationships that you build with your patients, the dynamics that are there.”
That’s a shift from Book’s goals when he enrolled in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s program in 2018.
“It’s been a big wakeup call because I've always thought that I wanted to spend my time in private health care,” he says. “And now I've almost completely lost my desire to do that.”
Book says the projects and clinical experience undertaken during the degree program have fundamentally altered his perspective.
From ASN to MSN
Book fell in love with nursing from the moment he began pursuing his associate degree after high school. With his ASN, he became a travel nurse, practicing across the country in cities like Phoenix, St. Louis, and Seattle.
When he returned to his hometown of Alexandria 10 years later, he wanted to take the steps to prepare for the rest of his career.
"I decided it was time to buckle down so I was like, ‘OK, you have to start thinking about the future, Jay. How do you want to further your education?’”
Book found the answer in UL Lafayette’s RN-to-BSN online degree program.
“It was very smooth sailing through the process,” Book says. “There weren’t any of the hiccups and the bumps that you might normally associate with, you know, getting registered and getting enrolled. Plus, it's home, it's right here. There's a little bit of pride in that, as well.”
Book enrolled in the online RN-to-BSN program in 2017. By 2019, he was on to his next challenge — pursuing his MSN degree.
As an ER nurse in Alexandria, Book saw the significant role of nurse practitioners have in care and knew that was a role he wanted to play.
“I just wanted to do more,” says Book. “I wanted to further my education, and I wanted to know more about advanced pathology, so I thought it would be a good role for me because it would expand on the knowledge base that I already have.”
Book says UL Lafayette was the obvious choice after his experience in the undergraduate program. His experience since has affirmed his decision.
“The MSN gives you just a much, much more in depth knowledge of the reasoning and the rationale behind your actions, so they're no longer just like reflexive. Your decisions are much more personal and intentional,” says Book. “Your practice requires a higher level of critical thinking and a wider breadth of knowledge.”
Adapting Practice and Perspective
Managing online graduate nursing coursework and clinical requirements along with a full-time job in the ER has been a challenge, says Book. Luckily, he has an excellent support system and has learned when to take a break.
“My husband has been amazing, working overtime to help make sure the bills get paid and all of our financial obligations are met to allow me to cut back on work when necessary,” says Book. “I have a really amazing group of family and friends that have helped me balance it and keep me sane. You definitely have to make sure that you don't spend all your time stuck in a book or you will just go nuts.”
Book says he wrote down deadlines and planned out study time for a visual aid to stay on track despite a hectic schedule.
Although coursework for the Master of Science in Nursing is online, clinical hours are completed in hospital and primary care settings. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant Book had to adapt, making use of telemedicine technology to continue serving patients and meeting his requirements.
In the rural Central Louisiana clinic where Book works, telemedicine serves a critical role in patient care even when there isn’t a global health crisis.
“There's such a huge, underserved population here,” he says. “For instance, if it storms, half of our patients are probably no-shows because they have to walk to the clinic. To have technology to reach patients who otherwise may not be able to fulfill their health care needs is very important.”
Recognizing those health care access gaps has altered Book’s approach to his work in the ER and his career trajectory.
“It's been very eye opening over the past couple of years, how underserved the people of Central Louisiana really are. You really start to identify how, as a nurse practitioner, you can really make a difference in this area.”
Book says caring for patients in the ER is now as much about treating their immediate condition as their ongoing care and treatment.
“It's totally changed my view about how I approach the patient, particularly when it comes to discharging them. I let them know that there are resources designed specifically for them, who will help them achieve some of their healthcare goals, and it's not nearly as daunting as they may think that it is,” Book says. “Those struggles that our patients are facing, we really have to help them navigate them.”
He plans to accept a position as a nurse practitioner in the hospital where he currently works once he’s able to apply for an advanced practice license. Starting in Fall 2021, Book will begin his next challenge — earning his Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Gain the knowledge and skills to improve patient care across populations through the University of Louisiana at Lafayette M.S. in Nursing online program. Request information today!