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Mary Catherine Hefner
MSN-FNP Student, Class of 2021

Current MSN-FNP Student

Tell me your name and expected graduation date.

Hi, I'm Mary Catherine Hefner and expected graduation date is May of 2021.

What's your favorite part about being a nurse?

My favorite part, or one of my favorite parts about being a nurse is just simply helping others improve their quality of life and in doing that, I just try to always leave patients in a better frame of mind or a better state of health than I find them in.

When did you decide you wanted to become a nurse practitioner?

It's been a goal for 20 years, to be a nurse practitioner, of mine, and life happens and it just so happened that life fell into place and it worked out through Carson-Newman for me to join their first cohort of the online program to work towards becoming a Nurse Practitioner.

Tell me about your educational background.

I'm what they call an old nurse. I graduated with my Bachelors from UNC Charlotte, in 1991, and over the last 28 years, just have worked towards various certifications, and then wanted to pursue my Master's. So here I am.

What are your future plans and how do you... How do you plan to achieve them?

I'm gonna tell you what I'm currently doing to answer that question. Currently, I'm working with people in poverty and linking them to resources, and I hope to be able, once I'm a family nurse practitioner, to continue to serve people in poverty and link them to health care resources, and improve their quality of life.

And what kind of impact do you plan to have on the nurse practitioner profession?

Well, that's a loaded question. I certainly hope that my little piece of the puzzle that I can contribute to the big picture will be impactful in the sense that - not only on the side of patient care, but also representing family nurse practitioners in a positive role politically and also with providers, so that we can practice at the upper end of our license and just be a voice both for patients and the profession of family nurse practitioners.

Tell me what attracted you to the Carson-Newman program and what made you know it's a great fit for you.

One of the main things that attracted me to the Carson-Newman Family Nurse Practitioner Program was the ease of admission, and the student success advisors were very significant in helping ease the transition and make the admission process simple. The process was simplified - there was immediate feedback and there was no wait time. I actually called on a Friday afternoon and was my call was returned, and then the following Monday, the admission process started. So the promptnesss, and then also the non-delay and feedback from the admissions, was one of the things that attracted me to the program.

What are your expectations for your Carson-Newman educational experience?

My expectations for the Carson-Newman experience is just to give my very best. I always give 150%, plus I would love to say I could make straight As in the program, but if a B is my best I'll take it. And just collaborating with the professors and other students in the cohort to give it my best and to always try to reach that A plus, but then just knowing that I always give it my best.

How do you find balancing your work schedule online, courses in your professional obligations?

I've never been able to juggle in my life, technically with three balls juggling, but that's how life is, right now, it is a true juggling act. You prioritize and it's very doable. Obviously, with the support of family and the staff and your other students in the cohort, you just learn to prioritize through work, through school and family.

What advice do you have for potential students considering enrolling in the program?

My advice for students considering to enroll in the program is just realize that it's okay to say no to some things that aren't gonna be the top priority in your life. Keep God first, family, and then just balance your work in your school and it is very doable.

Have you been able to integrate what you've learned from the program into your current job and if so, can you give me an example of how you've been able to do that?

Absolutely. I think everything in life, we just simply take, and we can learn to take a learning experience and turn it into a real life experience. And currently we're in health assessment, and that is something that has helping me sharpen my assessment skills, so when I'm in front of patients and listening to lung sounds, and listening to heart sounds, I certainly have a much better understanding of what I'm listening for.

How did working with your dedicated student support advisor impact your educational experience?

Well, I cannot say enough positive things about my dedicated student support advisor. Amy was her name, and she has just been top-notch, immediate reply to emails, she's always ahead of the eight ball and giving and providing the information to us many times before even the instructors get it to us. So that's very much appreciated, to give an overview of the program in the beginning. And then each semester, she has checked in to make sure that our classes are in the computer and that we're registered properly and then there's follow-up to see how we're doing within the first couple of weeks, mid-way and at the end, there's emails or phone calls. I just honestly cannot say enough positive things about the student success advisor.

Tell me about your experience with the faculty of the program and what stands out most about them.

Yeah, the faculty here at Carson-Newman. I've primarily interacted with Dr. Kimberly Bolton through most of the classes that I have had and transitioning from their program which was an on-the-ground program to an online program. They've been very honest when there's been hiccups that they've worked through and I appreciate that honesty and it's been a convenient way to learn being online. And they've provided feedback through Skype sessions, through emails and then through the Blackboard system here at Carson-Newman, which is Advanced 360.

Do you find having small class size makes you feel like the program is more individualized and you have more individual attention from the faculty?

Absolutely. Small class size with this cohort has been key. I definitely felt like there's been individual attention to each - to myself - and also have been talking with other students.

Do you find the faculty accessible, responsive, supportive, and professional?

Through the use of email, and then one of the things that I felt that made staff very accessible is through the Skype sessions that they've offered, and we've had those each semester, which has been very helpful 'cause you can put a face with the name, and then also get immediate feedback, get your questions your answer answers through the Skype sessions. So those have been extremely helpful.

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