Abbey Anderson has a passion for nursing that’s rooted deep within her family. Her grandmother practiced nursing for 50 years, and her aunt is also a nurse. Anderson is currently a student in her final year of the University of North Dakota’s Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Clinical Track (distance or online) program.
“My grandmother instilled in me that there are always people who are worse off and need help. That drew me toward nursing,” said Anderson.
Anderson, who at one time was also a first responder with her local ambulance service in Cooperstown, ND, got a feel for medicine while helping care for people.
While not studying or taking exams, Anderson works part time as a registered nurse in the emergency room at Altru Health System in Grand Forks and as an education facilitator for Simulation in Motion North Dakota, a truck that travels to rural communities, providing free education to local emergency medical services (EMS) and hospitals.
“I’m able to watch an hour of class before work starts or before I go to bed. I can access the content whenever – which is great. I make my schedule fit around me instead of me fitting it around school,” said Anderson. “That’s extremely valuable.”
Anderson became aware of UND’s online nursing program when she was an undergrad at the University. She remembers other nursing students arriving for their on-campus visits.
“I visited with them and asked how they enjoyed the program, which drew me toward it (FNP program). I’m also very faithful to UND – it’s home to me. I am extremely loyal to the school and all it has given me,” said Anderson.
She will complete her online master’s degree in just over two years and plans to graduate this spring semester.
“Balance is the key,” said Anderson. “At the start of every semester, it usually takes me a couple weeks to get back in the swing of things; it’s important to find that balance.”
Her biggest surprise was how supportive and encouraging everyone has been in the program.
“The instructors are awesome. If something comes up or your schedule changes, they are extremely accommodating,” said Anderson. “But at the same time, the faculty are there to push you to excel.”
The FNP program has an on-campus lab portion where students visit campus for one week every semester. For the FNP program, that totals four visits to campus.
“It’s great (on-campus labs) because you get to see students you interact with online. You really get to know them and are able to put a face to the name. It’s amazing to get hands-on training, which is really valuable,” explained Anderson. “I’m so glad we get that on-campus time where the instructors are with us and there to answer any questions, especially when we are working on skills.”
When asked to share any advice, Anderson stressed to jump in and do it.
“The FNP program really sets you up for success and gives you the skills to provide care in a variety of settings. It helps you become the best provider you can,” said Anderson.
A normal week for Anderson includes family practice rotations, working as an RN and spending time with her family. That usually leaves one day for homework.
“In the morning on homework days I stay at home and study. In the afternoon I usually come to campus or go to a coffee shop around town. It’s good to have a change of scenery,” explained Anderson.
The coursework varies between theory-based courses, which have weekly discussion posts and group projects, and application courses, which have tests, quizzes and written work. Anderson said the work is a lot of self-direction, but with group projects, collaboration is needed.
After completing her degree, Anderson plans to get a job in family practice and is drawn to rural communities.
“I feel like I left a great support system back in my hometown of Cooperstown. I have more to contribute and give back to rural communities; it’s what draws me to rural settings the most,” said Anderson.
Doctorate degree as well?
“I see myself working in family practice, strengthening my skill set, and perhaps one day going back to UND for my DNP, Doctorate of Nursing Practice. I want to be a leader in my profession,” said Anderson.