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Columbia College of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, focused on the Clinical Nursing Leader (CNL) role.  CNLs work at the microsystem level (unit or department), and focus on quality, safety, and outcomes for patients, staff, and providers.  Nora Alaniz is currently a CNL student at Columbia College of Nursing, and is planning to graduate in December, 2018.  In addition to being a CNL student, Nora also is a mother to three young boys, and works full-time at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.  She shares the following thoughts about why she chose to enroll in graduate school at Columbia College of Nursing, and how she is able to successfully balance all of her roles.    

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  Why did you go back to school and choose to enroll in the Columbia College of Nursing CNL graduate program?

I love school, I always have.  Not many people can say that, but for me education is a blessing that I will always take advantage of.  My mother finished high school, but my father was not even able to complete elementary school.  Therefore, growing up my parents engrained the importance of education and college to my siblings and me on a daily basis.  I still remember when I received the email from CCON indicating that a cohort would be put together for the Clinical Nurse Leader program.  I thought to myself, “I have been out of school for three years now, my kids will be in school themselves fulltime, and I will have a reason to actually start reading books again.”  In the back of my mind, I was scared when submitting the application, mainly because I thought I would be missing out on my kids’ school activities and milestones.  However, I felt at ease knowing I would be going through the journey together with my kids, and they would see college as a priority in their life as well.  Also, I graduated from CCON in 2014, so I knew coming back here, I would be in good hands.  Everyone is always happy to help and make the time and resources available for students to succeed, as long as we ask.

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  What is it like to be in a blended graduate program where half of your classes are online, and the other half in person?

Being in a blended graduate program has been a great and positive experience, as it gives me the flexibility to complete each term and still have a family life.  Being able to take classes in person one night a week and then complete assignments online is convenient with also having a full-time job.  The convenience of taking classes online became especially apparent during busy times of the year, such as the holiday season and during the summer months with family activities. Even if a class is fully online, I always feel support from the faculty, who take the time to come meet us in person, if we desire, to explain the syllabus and assignments for each course.  Another reason why I chose to enroll in the CNL program at CCON is because of the autonomy I was given to determine when I could complete clinical hours.  I currently complete clinical hours based on my kids’ schedules and work availability.  For example, I am on the unit for 4 hours some days and 10 on others.

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  How do you balance work, family, and school?

I learned rather quickly I needed to incorporate time-management into my daily routine.  I found myself reading, replying to online discussions, or completing a study guide during my sons’ swimming or tae-kwon-do classes.  My day begins with a cup of tea, waking the kids and dropping them off at school/daycare, right before rushing to work.  I embrace the rule my mom always suggested, which is “work stays at work.”  This makes it possible for me to focus my attention after work on on making dinner for my family and completing my school assignments.  I find that the best time for me to do homework and focus on school related activities is at night while my kids are sleeping, because it doesn’t take my time away from them.  In my undergraduate nursing program, I learned the importance of prioritizing and creating task lists, which I also use in graduate school.  This helps me to be as organized as I can, and has allowed me to balance school, work, and being the best mom I can be.

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  What tips do you have to share with other students who are thinking about returning to graduate school?

Above all, think positively about yourself and have confidence in your abilities.  It is also really important to surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and can support your success.  Also, ask for help when you need it.  Lastly, when you are feeling really challenged, keep perspective and remind yourself of the ultimate goal.

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