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Getting My Graduate Degree: Is it Worth It?

Nurses Article   (1,391 Views 20 Replies 905 Words)

Brenda F. Johnson has 25 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing.

5 Followers; 73 Articles; 104,534 Visitors; 251 Posts

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Life is built on the decisions that we make. Circumstance often limit our options, but how we respond is up to us. Other times, what we would like to do is delayed, such as going back to school. At times, our decisions are propelled by things lining up just right. That is what happened to me.

Getting My Graduate Degree: Is it Worth It?

I love my career in GI, and never thought I would change. Working in GI for the past 25 years has served me well. I enjoy it, and learn something on a daily basis. However, for the past 4 ½ years my immediate boss was the worst. I knew that I couldn’t take working under her until I retired. I had applied for other jobs, but that never worked out, and I didn’t want to go back to a night shift or to work on the floor. Having worked in GI for so long had type cast me into procedural nursing.  I was so desperate at one point that I felt depressed and trapped, as if in a bad marriage. 

About a year ago, I opened an email that stated that my facility was increasing tuition reimbursement. My heart skipped a beat. I actually like school, and love learning new things. So I printed out the information and put it aside until I got home. I did a search of the colleges and degrees that my facility partnered with for decreased tuition. There was one problem, I really didn’t want to teach, and am not necessarily interested in upper management. There was a choice of study that I didn’t quite understand called “Nurse Informatics”. I read the description several times trying to comprehend what exactly what “informatics” meant. 

After finally wrapping my head around informatics, I grew to like the idea. Using my nursing knowledge and nursing science to manage and define communication data seems like a great option for me. It sounded like something that I would like to learn more about. Also, when I get to retirement age, it could segue into something that I could do from home.

My age was the only deterrent that gave me pause.  I was 53 at the time and I questioned myself whether I should go into debt and invest my time to change into a career that was totally foreign to me. It terrified me, but also excited me at the same time. Would people look at me and say “what? She’s too old”. However, since I really don’t care what people think, that didn’t worry me so much. 

I chose the online Masters Program of Nursing Informatics at WGU. I am almost done with my first year, and I am still saying the mantra to myself about my age. Should I be doing this at my age? How many years will I really be able to work in my new field? Even though I question myself about my age, I know I won’t quit.  My family is very supportive and working online allows me to work when I have the time. My mentor through the school has been very helpful and encouraging. She helps me to navigate each class and gives me advice on how to proceed. The school offers enough resources that a student can complete their work without leaving their house. I’m sure most online programs are similar and offer resources like that of WGU. The instructors are available for telephone conference, or email correspondence. 

I was also concerned about not being in a classroom. I love being in a classroom and having interaction with the teachers and fellow students. However, I have enjoyed working in the evening on my couch  doing my schoolwork. At this point in my life, the online program fits my life and I am able to learn and do the work at my own pace. Beginning anything new in life can be nerve racking. A new job, new relationship, and  beginning a new degree. I was very anxious during the first two classes until I understood how they format the classes and homework. There is a lot of writing involved, but that doesn’t really bother me. Writing is one of the things I enjoy, even if it is a term paper instead of an article. 

As far as my job goes, the old boss is gone, and now I am the boss. Of course life gets busier as soon as you start a project. Work has calmed down and life has gone on. Class by class I get closer to the finish line. But what about the whole reason that I began this journey? It has resolved itself. Do I continue in informatics, or do I change the direction of my degree to management? So many questions, so much is unknown. I have thought long and hard about my school and career future. 

I have not talked about going to school with my co-workers, I have kept it on the down low. In the beginning, the reason was because I didn’t want my “at the time” boss to know. Now I don’t want them to know that I may be leaving in the next year or two. Either way, my advice to myself is to do what I need to do for myself. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, or expects. 

If you are thinking about going back to school, take a step forward and invest in yourself. Do it for yourself, and don’t let obstacles like age get in your way. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, and God leads us down the road that we need to be on. Tell us your school story!

5 Followers; 73 Articles; 104,534 Visitors; 251 Posts

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Sounds nice but unfortunately I got a masters and at the same age too. Same school even.  I have not been able to get a job unless it is on the floor, which I tried and found it to be lacking in good nursing care and was a very bad environment.  It didn't help me one iota, actually made things worse I think.

I am just one of the unfortunate ones.  I wish other nurses good luck, it just didn't work out for me. 

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I personally don't think it is worth it to go into debt for a graduate degree in nursing unless it's Nurse Practitioner or CRNA school. That's just my 2 cents.

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zoidberg has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Adult Med/Surg & Critical Care.

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The MSN, regardless of specialty, opens doors to positions (in my hospital at least) that aren’t options for BSN nurses. I think it depends on where you work and what you want to do with the degree. Keep your head up! If you find yourself losing interest in informatics, ask your mentor if you can switch to management! 

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8 hours ago, Forest2 said:

Sounds nice but unfortunately I got a masters and at the same age too. Same school even.  I have not been able to get a job unless it is on the floor, which I tried and found it to be lacking in good nursing care and was a very bad environment.  It didn't help me one iota, actually made things worse I think.

I am just one of the unfortunate ones.  I wish other nurses good luck, it just didn't work out for me. 

was your degree in informatics as well?  what is the job market like for that degree?  I heard 6 figures is typical? 

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K+MgSO4 has 12 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Surgical, quality,management.

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Well done going back to study.  Whatever age you go back it is tough and like you said it is like the universe sees your plate is full and heaps a bit more on 😉 I did my MHA in 2 years and while I am still in the same job as I was when I started I have not been actively looking for new positions. It is something I will focus on soon however my heart is with my organisation as I have been there for 10 years in about 6 different roles.

I would suggest that you start reaching out to your network and see what opportunities you can available of.  It sounds like you really care for the team you manage but you need to care for your career advancement too.

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Nursing is so broad, and there is much work to be done outside of the hospital (school nursing, government, informatics, teaching, etc.) where the MSN is sometimes required (or sometimes just helpful).

Don't forget about affordable state schools though!  I attended a state school that was very affordable for RNs.  Crippling debt is NOT a requirement for advancing our education.

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12 hours ago, fsuao2006 said:

was your degree in informatics as well?  what is the job market like for that degree?  I heard 6 figures is typical? 

They didn't have it in 2012.  I did education which was only one class difference than admin. No one ever asks about that when I apply or interview anyway.

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15 hours ago, zoidberg said:

The MSN, regardless of specialty, opens doors to positions (in my hospital at least) that aren’t options for BSN nurses. I think it depends on where you work and what you want to do with the degree. Keep your head up! If you find yourself losing interest in informatics, ask your mentor if you can switch to management! 

It can open doors if you also have recent hospital experience or are already working there.  If not then I don't think it helps much.  

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Hoosier_RN has 20 years experience as a MSN and specializes in LTC, home health, hospice, ICU, ER, dialysis.

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with the Informatics degree, you almost have to be on one of the coasts or in a large city...small towns don't generally use them, because they are small enough not to need a big team, and those in those jobs generally don't leave.  That was my concentration when I first started at WGU, I changed to Leadership/Management, after I found out that even in Indy, there wasn't much of a job market. I also have a bachelors in computer science...I hadn't worked in a hospital in a few years, and am now making way more than I had..and have actually surpassed most with my years of experience and education. Experiences will vary...

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The MSN informatics degree nurse I work with can't find a job anywhere here in KC in that field. I'm not sure the Masters is worth much. I did a year for an NP then started working with NPs only to see how little they are respected in the private sector except at FQHCs. I will probably not waste the money completing my graduate degree...

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FurBabyMom has 8 years experience as a BSN, RN.

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On 7/3/2019 at 1:05 AM, fsuao2006 said:

was your degree in informatics as well?  what is the job market like for that degree?  I heard 6 figures is typical? 

Not for informatics.  Maybe if managing an informatics team, though not really actually likely until you're at the director level.  Unless, of course, cost of living (and thus, salary) is high.

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