This post is part of a sponsored series recounting the incredible experience I had with Capella University’s MSN program in the FlexPath learning format as a sponsored student. Join me as I take you through my MSN journey, which commenced in 2017 and concluded 17 months later — just seven days before the arrival of my son. Together, we’ll explore my FlexPath experience and how it empowered me to achieve my educational goals amidst the beautiful chaos of life. If you want to check out all of the blog posts from my journey, click here [link coming soon]. Let’s dive in! 🌟📚
Today, I want to share my whirlwind experience and how Capella University’s FlexPath format played a vital role in helping me achieve my MSN degree– start to finish. From overcoming initial doubts to managing life’s unexpected curveballs, this journey has been nothing short of remarkable. So, let’s dig into the details and celebrate the culmination of my MSN adventure! If an MSN degree is something you are considering, or are curious about the Capella FlexPath option, this information should be super helpful.
Table of Contents
The Start of Something Great
Before diving headfirst into a program, I explored the FlexPath Trial Course, which gave me a taste of what to expect. As someone who hadn’t been in school for several years, this trial course was a godsend. At that time, I had very little exposure to online formal education. During my BSN (which I finished in 2010!) I completed only a few hybrid courses (half online and half in-person), so I wanted to see if an online degree would work for me. The trial course let me kick the tires, explore the format, and get a better understanding of the coursework and general expectations.
After I decided to move forward with the degree and completed the application process, I started my first course (Communication, Collaboration, and Case Analysis for Master’s Learners). I had to remember things like how to do proper APA citations and formatting, establish a new routine with setting my deadlines, and familiarize myself with the resources available (like Capella’s massive online library that I used constantly).
With FlexPath, I could view the assignments required to pass the course and then set my deadlines accordingly.
Things I considered as I set deadlines:
- My work schedule
- How familiar I was with the topic
- When I started my MSN, I had been a nurse for seven years, so I naturally had quite a bit of experience to draw from. This knowledge enabled me to progress through concepts and topics I was familiar with faster. If it was on something completely foreign to me, I knew I needed to allow myself more time.
- Personal life ups and downs going on at the time
- Like when we bought a new house and moved!
The ability to preview the expectations and consider what was going on in my life was a game changer. I felt like I was making this degree fit into my life, not my life fitting into the degree. There were no moments of impending doom after enrolling in a class only to see a major paper due the same week as a major life event or panicked last-minute emails to a professor to beg for an extension.
When I was working toward my MSN, I was working PRN in the hospital, had a two-year-old daughter, and was running my own online nursing platform. Being able to create flexible deadlines was critical for me even to consider continuing on. One of the reasons I waited so long to go back for a graduate degree was simply due to the rigid schedule that is a normal aspect of most programs.
Completing and Submitting Assessments
The Capella MSN with FlexPath is a competency-based model that includes direct assessments, an academic coach, professors, and a capstone project.
Each course consisted of a certain number of assessments that you had to demonstrate competency on in order to progress through the program. Once I submitted my assignment, I received precise feedback from the professor with an overall score. I found this process to be very user-friendly. I used this feedback to improve my assignment and then resubmitted it for further evaluation.*
Naturally, getting feedback and the chance to implement it made me a better writer and ensured my understanding of that specific topic or concept. It also helped recalibrate my expectations for a master’s level program from my previous bachelor’s experience. But the most valuable aspect of this format was that it deepened the quality of my writing and how I expressed my thoughts, perspectives, and ideas in a professional format.
This was a stark contrast to my previous formal education experience. Back then, I would spend a lot of time writing a paper, just hoping I was doing it correctly. I would get a grade and some feedback, but that was about it. One and done. There was no second attempt to be able to implement critiques to ensure I fully understood the concept or topic or rephrase how I expressed myself in the assignment in a more effective manner.
At the beginning of the program, I often needed all three attempts to excel. As I continued to receive feedback, I became more succinct, clear, and successful with my writing. Three attempts were not always necessary! It was clear to me that I truly was learning and improving.
*If you receive a low score on your assessment, you have the ability to resubmit up to two times and try for a better score.
Navigating Challenges and Embracing Change
I continued to progress through the program. Most of the time, I chose to take three courses per 12-week billing session because that was manageable. Some courses were smoother for me than others. For example, Curriculum Design, Development, and Evaluation made a lot of sense to me and I enjoyed the content and assignments. I tended to get “in the zone” with this course (and many others) with ease. Economics and Decision Making in Health Care was totally different. It required much more effort for me to understand the concepts. Naturally, it took longer for me to complete.
(This is why I loved the flexible deadlines because I could see what the assessments were before setting my deadlines and knew I’d need more time with that class!)
About halfway through my program, I found out we were expecting our second child. We were elated, but I also was midway through an MSN degree program! I knew what the newborn period would be like and definitely did not want to be in a place where I was trying to write papers or finish practicum hours.
Once we discovered that information, the timetable changed and I kicked it into high gear! I sat down with my husband and parents (who lived nearby) to outline what I had left and to see if it would be feasible to finish before my due date. It was!
Practicum and Capstone: The Final Steps
As my MSN journey neared its end, I embarked on my practicum, which led me to work alongside a nurse educator responsible for a new graduate-residency program at a local hospital. This experience provided invaluable insights, allowing me to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
I worked with a nursing preceptor who was the director of a nurse residency program. This was like hitting the jackpot for me, as all of my professional work online to support nurses has been geared toward new graduate nurses. I was able to peel back the curtain and see how a highly regarded nurse residency program supported their newly licensed nurses every single day! I completed over 100 hours of practice immersion and this culminated in my extensive 37-page capstone project focused on caring for nurses suffering from substance use disorder (SUD). I was able to provide my presentation directly to the residency program.
I was also able to develop great professional relationships. Capella’s process for establishing a practicum site and preceptor was quite smooth and didn’t create a headache for the nursing leadership I was working with (which is the last thing you want as a student!). Between that and the valuable time I spent on site, I was able to network and learn from exceptional nurse educators and leaders, while also seeing the pain points of new nurses in real-time.
Because of the flexible deadlines and support of my family, I could essentially go from completing my MSN in my spare time to having it become my full-time job for three months straight. I completed my final assignment just seven days before my son was born!
The End and New Beginnings
Just before I tapped out for the newborn period of my son’s life, I was elated to upgrade my credential from Kati Kleber, BSN RN CCRN-K to Kati Kleber, MSN RN CCRN-K!
(Note: I am now a CCRN-K alumnus.)
Life after my MSN has been fantastic. The knowledge I gained enabled me to create a better curriculum for all of my FreshRN courses, many of which now come with contact hours. It has allowed me to level up the information and encouragement I provide nursing students and new grads.
My MSN credential has elevated my professional profile. The trust and respect associated with an MSN degree have positioned me as a credible voice in the nursing field. Whether I continue with FreshRN or explore other avenues, there are wonderful options. I am qualified to work as an educator in a hospital setting and to teach nursing content in an appropriate classroom setting! Given that I have an MSN, I am also qualified to apply to any nursing job with that as a minimum requirement (provided it is not an advanced practice role).
Needless to say, the longevity of the profession is reassuring — and not only that, but the MSN program enriched my nursing knowledge and instilled in me a sense of purpose and a lifelong commitment to continuous learning.
In conclusion, to say I am glad I completed my MSN journey is a vast understatement. I encourage anyone pursuing their BSN or MSN to consider this innovative program. Embrace the journey and unlock the boundless potential that lies within you!