Lauren Faye Black, RNC-OB, MSN’20 was ready to go back to school after working as a registered nurse for almost a decade. She had always enjoyed having students and orienting new nurses, so when she heard about the St. Kate’s MSN: Nurse Educator program, she applied. “After learning that the program was 100% online, I knew that it could be a great fit for me.” Black and her family were planning to move to Montana, and she wanted a program that could provide academic excellence and consistency without needing to go to a physical campus. “The virtual nature of the degree provided me with a way that I could continue to hone my skills teaching the next generation of nurses and also have the flexibility I needed with two kids at home and a cross-country move on the horizon.”
When Black started the MSN: Nurse Educator program, she was nervous. “It sounds funny to say, but after working at the bedside for almost a decade and being out of school, I was nervous to be going back into an environment where I needed to be retaining and applying new information. I was honestly surprised and excited to have a new challenge in my career, and I felt like I learned a whole new side of nursing that I hadn’t given much thought to previously.”
Black had attended a Catholic university for her undergraduate degree, and having a faith-based education has always been important to her, as was St. Kate’s dedication to inclusive excellence. Deeply rooted in the legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the MSN: Nurse Educator program’s creative curriculum focuses on social justice, educating students to address educational gaps and create an inclusive educational experience for future nurses. “I loved being a part of an institution that values diversity and inclusion so highly; it’s comforting to know that I share similar values as my fellow students, faculty, and now alumni,” says Black.
During her graduate education, Black was impressed by the community she found at St. Kate’s. “While my BSN program was also a cohort, it was a larger class and I didn’t get the same feeling from the program. I really felt that we as a group in the MSN: Nurse Educator program got to know one another, despite some of us never meeting in person,” she says. “I would text with some of my classmates almost daily; not just about school, but also about what was going on in our lives.”
Through innovative online teaching strategies, the MSN: Nurse Educator program is individually tailored with personalized feedback, in-depth collaborative projects, and one-on-one faculty support and guidance to help each student reach their full potential as an educator. As Black says, “Having a dedicated, consistent faculty was a huge benefit to our group. I really feel like this community facilitated my finishing the program and getting all that I could out of the learning experience.”
Shortly after Black completed her degree in May 2020, she had her annual review at her job as a clinical educator at a 150-bed hospital in Missoula, Mont. “Being able to demonstrate how I had gone above and beyond my original job description, as well as producing my diploma, absolutely worked in my favor. I was actually offered a raise and a new position — senior clinical educator and competency program manager — was created for me that ensured that I was being adequately compensated for my work, as well as having my additional education recognized. It was an extremely rewarding outcome to say the least,” she says.
“I feel like many doors are open to me now that I have my MSN,” shares Black. “Having a higher degree will allow me flexibility in the future to work in a multitude of settings, and allow me to shape my career to fit my life and my family’s needs.” Additionally, as a mother of two (with another on the way), Black wanted to set an example to her children to show them what they can accomplish by completing her master’s while working full time. Black says, “I want them to realize that they can learn at any age, and that they are also free to have their paths evolve. Just because you’ve done the same thing for the better part of a decade doesn’t mean that you have to continue, or that you’re unable to change and do something different. If you find a new passion, find a way to make it a reality!”