What’s it like to be DNP student?

How do you get back into the mindset of being a student after being out of school for a long time?

How do you juggle school with work and family?

What’s it like to be a student in American Sentinel University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership program?

Here’s an actual chat session between a prospective student (a vice president of nursing services/chief nursing officer for a regional medical center) and American Sentinel DNP graduate (Eddie Beard, a senior vice president/chief nursing officer).

Q: I’ve never taken an online class, and it’s been almost two decades since I’ve been an MSN student. I’m concerned about getting into the school mentality and the time constraints on my already-full schedule.

Eddie: I enrolled in the first DNP cohort after an exhaustive search through cadres of online DNP programs. I work full time as a senior VP/CNO in North Carolina. I had been out of school for 20 years. Once I made the decision to do it, I”e loved every minute of it. The program is great and all the staff and faculty have been fantastic. I have the same challenges of a full life and schedule, but I’ve found it doable.

Q: Is the program manageable with your work and life constraints? How do you manage school with work and family?

Eddie: The online courses require a weekly forum discussion. I do the reading (it’s manageable—40-60 pages from a text) on Thursday or Friday. On Saturday, I draft my responses to the questions posed by the professor for the weekly forum. I post them sometime on Sunday. The rest of the week, I respond to what others are posting on the forum. Our cohort got to know each other really well during the residency, so we communicate well with each other. It’s definitely doable.

Q: How much time do you spend on the DNP courses? Daily? All weekend? What do the assignments consist of?

Eddie: I described the forum participation above. That’s every week as you roll through the course. There’s also a major paper (18-20 pages) and a PowerPoint presentation of that paper. If you can’t get it done within the eight weeks, there’s an opportunity for you to “buy” a few more weeks.

Q: How is the support from faculty/peers?

Eddie: Our group of seven in my cohort is really close. (Note: the second cohort started in January with 17 students.) We bonded during the residency. The faculty are really great. They treat you like adult learners, and there is lots of respect. I’ve been thrilled with my experience so far.

Q: What did the 10-day residency consist of? Was there any downtime?

Eddie: There is some downtime, but not a lot. The days are long because we do the cohort over 10 days (working through the weekend) so we didn’t have to be gone the full 2 weeks from work. We started around 8:00 or 8:30 a.m. and went to 5:00 p.m. most days. The days are broken into different activities so you’re not in lectures the whole time. It really flew by. Some nights there are homework assignments that you have to work on for class the next day.

Q: What advice do you have for a prospective student?

Eddie: Just do it. It’s been great, and for me that’s saying a lot. I’ve wanted to do this for years, but just couldn’t bring myself go back to school. I’m so happy I did it, though. One thing—you really need to be computer literate. If you’re afraid of Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc. and rely on an assistant to churn stuff out for you, then I’d start skill-building now if you intend to pursue this.