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

Best of Both Worlds

For Beth Mettes, happiness is found in the country, with fresh air, plenty of acreage and beloved animals surrounding her. A circulating nurse in the operating room of University Hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center, she lives on a farm in northeast Missouri with her husband, Tyler; two Labrador retrievers; goats; horses; chickens; and a wild bunch of barn cats.

“Until a recent tragedy, we had a wonderful pet bull named Franklin who thought he was a dog and was always on our Christmas card,” she adds. “I love spending time outdoors, riding or grooming horses, hunting, gardening, water skiing or driving around in my Jeep with the top and doors off.”

Although Beth, who earned her BSN from Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing in Quincy, Illinois, commutes to Columbia for work from her home in Macon, Missouri, she was searching for a graduate nursing program she could complete from home on her days off. And thanks to the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, she’s found that living and serving the community she loves while pursuing graduate education are in no way mutually exclusive.

“I was impressed with the idea of an online program that I could complete from home,” she says. “When I started looking at options, the prestige of the Mizzou name was appealing. I chose the DNP program because MU no longer offers a master’s program for nurse practitioners, and I decided that if I was going to jump in, I better jump in the deep end and just go all the way.”

Balance and goals

There’s serenity to Beth’s life on the farm that helps balance her nursing job at MU, where her 12-hour shifts begin bright and early at 6:30 a.m.

“I am blessed to be involved in a variety of cases within the operating room,” she says. “Each day is a surprise when I get to work. I might be doing an ear/nose/throat case, orthopedic (bone) case, neurology (brain or spine) case, abdominal case, gynecological case or urology case.”

For Beth, it’s the variety of procedures and various surgeons that keep her job interesting.

“On rare occasions, I am honored to be involved in organ donation cases where I have cried while watching the miracle of life unfold before my eyes,” she says. “The life-saving trauma surgeries we do are always fast-paced and challenging. I recently participated in a living donor kidney transplant. That means we were in one OR receiving the kidney of the patient next door who donated their kidney to a family member. I love getting to be part of cases like these.”

In addition to her full-time nursing job in the operating room, last spring Beth took a second job as a mental health clinical instructor for SSON undergraduate nursing students.

“Before the operating room, I was a charge nurse in the psychiatric ER,” she says. “I missed the patients at the psychiatric hospital and wanted to share with nursing students that mental health nursing isn’t like the movies and is not as scary as it sounds. I hope to recruit a few of them to become mental health nurses.”

Because of the flexibility of the DNP program, Beth’s graduate courses have fit seamlessly into an already-full schedule. And although the days can be long with so much to juggle, Beth says the online capabilities of the program have proved invaluable in allowing her not only to achieve her goals but also to connect with a variety of instructors with diverse backgrounds and specialties.

“The way the program is designed, you can access your class anywhere you have internet access,” Beth says. “Additionally, the online program allows SSON to employ the best of the best when it comes to instructors. … We had a well-known pediatric ER CNS teaching our pediatric class from St. Louis, we have an exceptional FNP who works full time in an urgent care in Jefferson City sharing her immeasurable wisdom about assessment and diagnostic skills, our mental health leaders are well-known mental health nurse practitioners from St. Louis and my personal mentor is an FNP who practices in Kansas City. She is three hours away from me, yet I’ve learned more than I could ever imagine from her.”

Return to rural

With her May 2018 graduation date quickly approaching, Beth is preparing to transition to being a nurse practitioner, providing primary care for patients of all ages. Demand for nurses with her qualifications is high, particularly in rural settings.

“As I get closer to graduation, I am discussing opportunities with a private practice within my community,” she says. “I hope to work with that collaborating physician, but we have discussed the idea of a satellite clinic in a neighboring town. This community has so many people who could benefit from a primary health care provider. I have a special spot in my heart for the farmers of my community. I would be honored to provide them with resources to remain healthy through preventative health and routine management.”

For Beth, serving the needs of her small town is about more than just providing health care — it’s about continuing her family’s long line of service and giving back to the community that raised her. Beth’s mother provided for the family and community by selling crop insurance to local farmers, and her father, a rural electric cooperative’s lead lineman, provides electricity to the community.

“I want to be part of continuing to provide much-needed services to our area by returning to the region as a nurse practitioner,” Beth says. “There is a need for providers to fill a service in rural areas, and because I grew up appreciating a rustic life, I am incredibly interesting in the peacefulness of remaining in the rural environment. There is an unexplainable calmness of sitting by a fire and listening to the crickets and coyotes.

“The quietness and fresh air of the country is calming and peaceful,” she continues. “I would never want to give that up.”

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

A Life Changed

April 15, 2012. That was the day that changed the course of Christopher Wilson’s life forever.

As part of the Army National Guard, Chris, BSN ’17, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. While there, as a member of Missouri Agribusiness Development Team 6, he was the security forces team leader and felt a great deal of responsibility for his soldiers. His responsibilities included the training of security forces and developing missions, organizing teams and detailing routes in order to keep his soldiers safe.

On that fateful day, Chris’ base was attacked by insurgents. Initially, a car bomb went off behind the troops’ sleeping quarters. Insurgents then used the chaos to their advantage and came into the camp. A 30-minute firefight ensued, and while Chris was physically unharmed, in all, 17 purple hearts were awarded from this incident.

After the dust had settled, Chris visited his wounded soldiers at the Army hospital at Jalalabad Airfield. Everywhere he looked, he saw nurses providing the top level of care to his wounded comrades.

“I didn’t see a doctor. It was all nurses,” Chris says. “After I had a chance to process everything that had happened, that was the moment that led me to want to be a nurse. I wanted to be able to provide the care my soldiers received.”

Later that year, Chris returned to the United States and began to think about what his career might hold next. He already held a bachelor’s of science in exercise science/physiology from Truman State University, but wanted to become a nurse.

He needed to take a few prerequisites and then applied to the Sinclair School of Nursing’s accelerated bachelor’s of science in nursing. In 2016, Chris was accepted into the highly competitive program. 

Throughout the rigorous, 15-month program, he had to work to both develop the nursing knowledge and skills he would need to practice as a bachelor’s-prepared nurse after graduation and keep up with his military duties.

“I finished that first summer semester of the program, took my ‘Skills’ final and that immediately led to my wedding day,” Chris says. “I got married and then left for a week from some military training and then came back and started the next semester. That’s pretty much how it went throughout the whole program I would finish one thing, and it was on to the next.”

As the program came to a close in July 2017, if Chris thought his life was going to slow down, he was wrong. Just before his last week of finals, Chris and his wife, Nicole, delivered their first child, Hugh Lawrence Wilson.

Chris spent his first few nights as a new father staying up late, studying for his last round of finals. Managing to pass them all, he now has a little bit of time to think about his future. Through a combination of natural skills and those he developed in the military, Chris has always been a leader. He used those skills in his time at the SSON. 

“i’m not the most outspoken person,” Chris says. “I like to lead by example, but I tried to speak out sometimes, I knew I was one of the oldest ones in the class and wanted to be someone my classmates could look up to.”

Now, Chris is going to use his skills as a nurse in the surgical intensive care unit at University Hospital here in Columbia. He hopes that role will help him to continue acquiring skills and experiences that will help him achieve his ultimate goal. Chris is currently in the process of switching from being an engineer in the National Guard to being enlisted in the Medical Services Corps. He wants to be able to be deployed and be one of the frontline nurses that deal with casualties of war.

“That is the fruition of everything that happened in that attack in 2012,” Chris says. “I just want to be someone that soldiers can rely on and feel comfortable that they are in the best care with me.”

SSON Helps Launch New Online Graduate Certificate in Participatory Health Research

The University of Missouri is working to increase the number of researchers who use a patient-centered and community-engaged approach to their work by launching a new online graduate certificate in participatory health research. 

“When researchers, community members, social welfare experts and health care administrators work as partners to conduct research projects, there is an increase in meaningful change and forward progress,” says Maithe Enriquez, SSON associate professor. “Former U.S. Surgeon General David Stacher has said this type of research methodology holds the key for getting to the root cause of health disparities.”

The program will create more health care professionals who are able to not only improve outcomes in their clinical setting, but also influence health care policy, Enriquez says.

MU is now accepting applications for the 100-percent online certificate program and classes begin August 21. GRE scores are not required for application.

In-Demand Skills

The 15-credit-hour program is designed for professionals in social work, nursing and public health who want to acquire research skills to expand and grow their careers.

Students in the online program will apply research methodologies that health care systems and health research institutions value most:

  • Community-based participatory research (CBPR): a partnership approach to research in which various stakeholders contribute expertise and share decision-making.
  • Patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR): a methodology that involves health care consumers and caregivers, helping them communicate and make informed health care decisions together.
  • Clinical effectiveness research (CER): the direct comparison of health care interventions to determine which work best for which patients.

The graduate certificate can be taken in addition to a student’s current graduate program of study in medicine, public health, nursing, social work or other areas. In-service professionals who seek to enhance their skills also can enroll in the certificate program. A bachelor’s degree is required for admission.

“Students are going to pick up valuable skills and expertise in community-based, patient-centered and clinical effectiveness research,” Enriquez says. “They also can grow their professional networks while continuing their education, which is something all licensed health care professionals are required to do.”

 Four MU departments are working together to offer the course work for this online graduate certificate: the School of Medicine’s Family and Community Medicine, the School of Social Work, the School of Health Professions and the Sinclair School of Nursing.

Students who take two classes each semester can finish the 15-credit hour program in one year. 

For more information about the online graduate certificate in participatory health research, visit online.missouri.edu/participatory-health-research-graduate-certificate.

27th Annual Awards Banquet Celebrates SSON

Nearly 250 guests filled the Country Club of Missouri for the 27th Annual Awards Banquet and Alumni Reunion April 21, 2017. Alumni from all over the country joined Sinclair School of Nursing faculty, staff, students and their family gathered to celebrate the best of the Sinclair School of Nursing.

Students were recognized for excellence in the classroom and clinical settings. Faculty were recognized for excellence in teaching and research. The Nursing Alumni Organization recognized five honorable alumni who have spent their careers in the top of the nursing profession. Award winners are listed below.

Award Winner
Overall Excellence by a 7th Semester Student McKenzie Adam
Overall Excellence by an 8th Semester Student Mary-Margaret Washer
Overall Excellence by an Accelerated Student Rebekah Bade
Overall Excellence by an RN to BSN Student Carla Clapp
Overall Excellence by a Master’s Student Courtney Miller
Overall Excellence by a DNP Student Angela Story
Overall Excellence by a PhD Student Ginny Schulz
School Staff Award Sandra Dearlove
Excellence in Teaching Pam Evans-Smith
Excellence in Research Laurel Despins
Betty Crim Award for Faculty Enhancement Michelle Reams
Alumni Achievement Mindy Stites
Humanitarian Award Candy Neuner
Alumna of the Year Cay Casey
Honorary Alumna  Colleen Galambos
Citation of Merit Mei Fu
Distinguished Friend of the School Sandra Gambaro Shelley

Congratulations to all award winners!

Prior to the banquet, members of the Sinclair School of Nursing’s Nightingale Gift Society were celebrated at the annual induction and reception. New members were inducted into the prestigious society, and others were elevated to new levels of recognition. The society honors major donors for their gifts made to the school.

Following the banquet, Sunday, April 22, members of the class of 1967, ’77, ’87 and 2007 gathered for a reunion. They toured the University of Missouri Hospital and the Sinclair School of Nursing and gathered for lunch to reminisce about their time in nursing school.

Thanks to all who attended and helped put the event together. We are looking forward to next year. Be sure to check out facebook for pictures of all the events!