Nursing happens in the hands-on learning experiences of fast-paced facilities, and Amber Thompson landed on teaching as her career path after many years as a nurse. She realized the degree to which education is implicit in healthcare delivery.
She entered the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Nurse Educator online program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) after her positive experience earning a BSN there.
“I became a nurse 17 years ago, and my favorite part of nursing is teaching. You’re teaching new grads, you’re teaching families, you’re teaching patients, and that’s what sparked my interest in nursing education,” she said. That interest led her to teach high school health science, further solidifying her direction.
Thompson recently turned in the last of her assignments for the online MSN program and awaits her final grade report. While this will not be the end of her educational journey, she might take a semester or two off to rest.
She stays busy working in an academic medical center and looks forward to furthering the progress begun with the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) she obtained at the start of her career.
The mother of five — Dylan (22), Will (16), Maggie (14), Willow (8) and Christopher (7) — has had to do some juggling to achieve her goals, with her family supporting her throughout.
“In their eyes, I’ve been in school for a really long time because it started with my BSN. They were able to attend my graduation at UNCW, and that was a very proud moment,” Thompson said. “And then, for my master’s, they’ve been encouraging me all along the way. So yeah, everybody’s super excited to have Mom done with school for a little while.”
Throughout her education, Thompson was often working shifts of 12 hours or longer in the surgical trauma ICU before coming home to care for her family. She would then feed everyone and get them ready for bed before returning to her schoolwork. Her diligence rubbed off on at least one of her children.
“My 14-year-old daughter has definitely expressed interest in being a nurse. I try hard not to push it on her. She’s come to work with me before and actually filed papers,” Thompson said. “I had no idea until there was a career day at school, and she put down that she wanted to be a nurse. I was just so excited.”
Eyes on the Prize
After completing her BSN, Thompson took a three-month break before jumping right into coursework for her MSN. She had a smooth transition because instructors like Dr. Heather Zonts supported and encouraged her to pursue her goals.
She appreciates the support she receives from faculty members for her pursuit of a graduate degree. They are readily available for phone consultations as needed.
“I’m a working mom of five children, and I am still able to complete any degree I want through UNCW,” Thompson said.
Teaching at the university level remains one of Thompson’s career goals though she is still adding the building blocks to get there. As a nurse leader, she aims to strengthen her skills as an educator to be a positive influence on her colleagues. The two Nursing Education Practicum courses (NSG 596 and 597) in UNCW’s online MSN Nurse Educator program have broadened her understanding of her field.
“My preceptorship was at the VA [Veteran Affairs] Hospital, and I had never been there, and a government hospital is definitely different,” she said.
In progressing through the online program, she found evidence of the faculty members’ dedication to her success. They are all nurses themselves and understand that their students are working.
“The instructors want you to learn and be able to apply it where you are. I absolutely love learning, and everything I’ve learned through my BSN and my MSN at UNCW has been applicable to my everyday work,” Thompson said.
She completed the online MSN Nurse Educator program as a working parent, with the added complication of the COVID-19 pandemic requiring even more of a balancing act.
A desire to further augment her nursing master’s has Thompson already looking to the future.
“In my current position, I have a knowledge gap when it comes to finance,” she said. “And I did speak to a program coordinator at UNCW about the Master of Healthcare Administration degree.”
Learn more about UNCW’s online Master of Science in Nursing Nurse Educator program.