Goals and Growth

An active duty military officer, father of six and doctoral student in MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, John Rossi is the walking definition of balance. Not only does he serve as a full-time military nurse, but he’s also an incredibly involved parent, sharing homeschooling duties with his wife, Nancy, for five of their six kids. Although some days can feel more chaotic than others, John has been a hard worker and goal setter for his entire adult life. So when he set his sights on finding a highly ranked graduate nursing program that would fit into his busy life, MU’s SSON climbed to the top of his list.

“Since I’ve started, I’ve seen nothing but excellence,” says John, who’s working toward his doctorate in psych mental health and family practice, with a minor in education. “Every experience has been a fulfilling one so far, and everything that I’ve been involved with at the university has allowed me to advance the next step in achieving my ultimate goal.”

Although John’s journey to the DNP program was a practical progression in hindsight, it’s a long way from where he started nearly two decades ago. John joined the military right out of high school in 2001 and spent nine years as an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy as a helicopter search and rescue swimmer. He enjoyed a successful career and a lot of opportunities, but the repeat deployments were becoming more and more difficult with his growing family at home.

“When it all came down to it, I didn’t want to deploy and be away from my family anymore,” says John, whose kids are now 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 and 1. “So I separated from the military and went back to school at Brigham Young University.”

It was at Brigham Young where John earned his nursing degree — a Bachelor of Science in nursing and gerontology.

“I quickly realized that life isn’t as simple as you think,” John says of deciding what was next after graduation. “I had always wanted to be an officer in the military, though, and now I had the ability. So I applied for commission in the Air Force to be a nurse.”

That was three years ago. Today, John is stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, just east of Dayton, Ohio, where he works full time as a nurse at Wright-Patterson Medical Center.

Back to school

It wasn’t long after starting his first full-time nursing position that John realized he wanted to return to school for his doctorate degree, which probably didn’t come as a surprise to those who know him well. John and Nancy, who have been married for 15 years, homeschool their children, with John teaching science and history and Nancy teaching the rest. Nancy also recently went back to school for her bachelor’s degree.

“Besides the military, we’ve been nothing but education and full steam ahead,” John says. “My ultimate goal is to retire in eight years from the military; then I’d like to have a small practice of my own and have my primary job be working as an educator who teaches at the university level.”  

John says the structure of SSON’s program itself has been a big factor in his ability to balance his various responsibilities — both the expected and unexpected.

“The DNP program is set up in such a way that it allows me to accomplish my goals in the time I need to do it in,” John says. “For me as a military member, my life can change at the drop of a hat, and the school as been nothing but supportive in this endeavor, making sure that if I deploy or something happens, we have a plan for what we need to do and, more importantly, a plan for what I can do when I get back to continue seamlessly with the program.”

He also notes a difference in his approach to nursing since beginning at MU.

“It really has focused my abilities and added emphasis to my previous education by giving me more content to work with,” he says. “I can already see what a better nurse I’ve become because of what I’ve learned through the program.”

‘The first step is starting’

John’s balancing of a full-time workload with family life and school means there are no 18-credit-hour semesters in the cards, and the path to the finish line is slow but steady. Taking a course or two at a time, he’s on track to graduate in May 2022. But it’s not a race — it’s about the end goal.

 “A graduate degree doesn’t happen overnight, but you take it one day at a time,” he says. “Commit to it, and then start the progress. You can figure out the ABCs and XYZs later. The first step is starting.”

Click here for more on the Sinclair School of Nursing’s DNP program, including entry pathways and areas of study