Earth-rattling rocket launches are common on the Space Coast of eastern Florida, where the likes of NASA and SpaceX shoot building-size spacecraft toward the stars from Kennedy Space Center.
“We’re so used to it — we can see it from our backyard,” says Megan Jordan, a Maryville University online student who lives in nearby Melbourne, Florida. “Sometimes our house shakes when the rocket goes off.”
Megan experienced a different kind of launch a few years ago when, 13 years into her nursing career, she decided to enroll in Maryville’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice-Nurse Practitioner (DNP-NP) program. And while it didn’t cause the ground to quake, it certainly changed the trajectory of her life and her career, granting her the confidence — and the flexibility — to go where she wants.
“With the DNP, it allows me to become a faculty member, or it allows me to become more understanding of research … in a clinical setting, which is huge,” she says.
These are career tracks Megan never saw possible for herself. She has lived with anxiety issues much of her life, and before making the decision to push forward with her nursing doctorate, she never saw her career reaching such heights.
Once she found the courage, it changed her life.
“It gave me the self-confidence I have been looking for my whole adult life,” she says.
Finding inspiration in herself and her family
As an RN, Megan’s capabilities and professional responsibilities were limited, so she knew she wanted more from her career. She was always fascinated by how the human mind works, an interest that only expanded when she became the mother of an autistic son.
As she watched him grow and develop while living with Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, she was inspired by “the trials, the tribulations, and the hassles” he endured, she says. Because he is considered higher-functioning, Megan noticed that he sometimes wasn’t able to find the support he needed to succeed, even as he was treated with the stigma of autism.
Anxiety issues and self-doubt had prevented Megan from pursuing her full potential as a nurse. But her relationship with her son — and her lifelong interest in psychology — helped her overcome her nerves and take the step she had always wanted to take in her career. Looking to her family as inspiration, she decided to launch her career as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (NP).
“Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have seen myself like this,” she says.
But now she’s set to graduate with her DNP — and already practicing in her chosen field as a nurse practitioner.
The best circumstances for success
Megan began her search to find the perfect degree for her needs in 2020, shortly before lockdowns began in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Psychiatric mental health nursing degree options were limited at that time, especially programs that checked all the boxes she wanted: a program that was post-master’s certified and that could be completed largely online, so she could continue working and helping her husband with parenting duties.
After talking with her academic advisor at Maryville University, she learned that Maryville’s online DNP program would give her the flexibility to pursue her career goals on her time — with the added benefit of helping her earn her NP credentials nine months sooner than expected.
“Well heck, I just was like, ‘OK, throw me in there,’” Megan says. “I didn’t even think about it. I was just like, ‘Yep, let’s do it.’ And so here I am today, almost done.”
Because she has such a broad interest in nursing, Megan was drawn to the possibility of serving patients as an NP as well as teaching and leadership. She likes the idea of having the freedom to navigate her nursing career based on her terms and interests.
“There might be a time when I don’t want to practice anymore, and maybe I want to teach instead,” she says. “[Maryville’s program] would give me that opportunity, instead of having to go back and do another two years.”
In addition to the quicker pace toward becoming an NP, Megan says the structure and layout of Maryville’s program contributed to her success and helped her build confidence. She was able to begin work on her dissertation right away and develop it alongside standard coursework with full faculty support.
“The way Maryville’s program is laid out, it helps you through the process,” she says. “Most places, when I talk to other people about their school … they don’t have the support of faculty like Maryville gives.”
Finding the confidence — and support — to advance
A solid support network is important to a successful academic and professional career. When Megan decided to earn her DNP, she knew she would have the full support of her family — especially her husband, who helped with housework and taking care of their son.
But even still, she wasn’t sure she was ready for the commitment of becoming a nurse practitioner. Initially, she planned on using her DNP to go into teaching, research, and leadership rather than to practice. The decision was based on her own self-assurance as much as it was on logistics.
“I had no confidence in myself that I could make it through an NP program,” she says. “So, I thought, well, I’ll go with a doctoral program to teach, because I like teaching. And that’s right when the pandemic started.”
But once she saw the culture of support at Maryville — from her advisor, Laura, and from several advisors along the way whom she describes as “phenomenal” — she realized she wouldn’t have to go it alone.
“It was the response that Maryville had to help mitigate [those concerns], to help get me back on track, and to help me understand what the experience is supposed to be like,” she says. “I could list off multiple people that have helped me through that process. And that’s huge.”
Discovering new heights through nursing education
With her doctorate-level nursing coursework as a launch pad, Megan is excited to discover new opportunities in her career.
Already — before she’s even graduated — she says her employer and her colleagues are noticing the growth and development of her critical thinking, clinical leadership, prioritization, and execution skills. And she expects her personal growth to continue throughout the remainder of her DNP program and into her professional life.
“The way that I manage myself, handle myself, in a professional setting is much different,” she says. “My thought processes are different, just as if I went to nursing school and was a new nursing student getting my RN or my ASN.”
It isn’t easy to overcome personal challenges like self-doubt and test anxiety, but Megan is proud of herself for committing to her education and forging a path toward the future she wants in nursing.
“My grit, stubbornness, and determination is proving to be fruitful,” she says. “Finally.”
If you’re ready to see how Maryville Online can help you be brave and pursue your educational and professional goals, we’re here for you. Check out our online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees, or schedule a call with an advisor today.