Penn State World Campus graduates first class in online nursing master’s degree

May 05, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The first class of Penn State’s online master of science in nursing degree program will graduate in the University’s spring 2015 commencement ceremony May 10.

The eight nurses completed the 37-credit degree, which included coursework, clinical hours, a project and a scholarly paper. As Penn State World Campus students, they focused their online coursework on either the nurse administrator or nurse educator option, with the hope of the advancing their careers.

“I feel like I can be a better liaison between the business world of health care and advocating for the nurses,” said Renae Epler, a graduate from the nurse administrator option who is a clinical head nurse in the neonatal unit at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “I’ve been able to see how a nursing administrator can sit next to the CFO and have conversations about how to make these improvements.”

Epler, like the other students in the group, began her graduate studies in Penn State’s fall 2013 semester. She pursued the MSN degree so she could learn about the inner workings of the hospital with the hope of improving patient care.

She thinks she’s done just that.

Through her clinical hours and final project, she’s working on a way to streamline communication at the children’s side of the Hershey Medical Center. She is developing a daily briefing during which managers can discuss operations issues that could affect security or quality of care at the hospital.

For example, the on-site pharmacy could run out of a certain medicine, and that’s information that would be useful for all units to know. The same goes for a security issue, such as a set of doors that do not latch properly.

“A lot of hospitals struggle with people working in silos, not realizing how the other departments are impacting one another,” she said. “This is the forum for everyone to get together at the same time and make sure all the issues are being resolved because you have the right people together.”

Another graduate, Jane Saltisiak, is passionate about teaching, which is why she enrolled in the nurse educator option.

At her full-time job at the biotechnology company Genentech, she trains nurses of all levels about her company’s medicine. She also has taught nursing as an adjunct instructor at Misericordia University, near her home in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“It’s important that I know my audience and bring the teaching to their level,” Saltisiak said. “I like to see the light bulb go on, and I see it all the time when I teach for my company. I’m talking to nurses one on one about the medication or the infusion process and they get it. It’s so gratifying when you help someone learn something new.”

Saltisiak would like to get a doctorate and hopes to teach at the university level.

The online courses that Epler and Saltisiak took were taught by faculty from the Penn State College of Nursing. The program was set up so that nurses already working full-time could have the flexibility to complete the master’s degree at a pace that fits their schedules, said Lisa Kitko, an assistant professor of nursing and the lead faculty member for the online program.

“These are very high-quality students who want to be in jobs that will help train a new generation of nurses,” Kitko said. “That really speaks to their commitment to the profession and to nursing.”

Applications for the online master’s of nursing are being accepted for admission in the fall 2015 semester. For more information about the degree, visit the program’s website.

  • Penn State World Campus student and nurse Renae Epler, at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

    Penn State World Campus student Renae Epler, right, works with her mentor Camille Filoromo at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Epler will graduate from the online master of science in nursing program, and she completed her practicum under Filoromo at the medical center in the spring 2015 semester.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 05, 2015