“Are you in or are you out?” Tracy Clark ’07 remembers the ultimatum from her co-worker Gina Boring ’07 very well. Boring and Clark were office mates at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio. While flipping through a magazine in the hospital library, Boring saw an advertisement offering tuition discounts for Walden University’s first Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) cohort—and she was recruiting friends to take on the challenge with her.
“I started looking at my friends who had their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees and I said, ‘I’m not doing this alone. If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it together,’” Boring says.
Boring successfully drafted Clark and four other colleagues to enroll at Walden. Together, the group forged a unique experience that blended the best of what online and in-person education have to offer. The group would meet each Saturday at a local Panera Bread to discuss readings and assignments and offer different perspectives based on their diverse clinical backgrounds. Perhaps most importantly, they encouraged one another—and Boring was the head cheerleader.
“Each one of us had highs and lows in the program,” Clark says of the group, which juggled jobs and family obligations in addition to their studies. She recalls that Walden offered students an opportunity to take an eight-week break in the MSN program, “but Gina said, ‘No, let’s go. We just need to power through.’ Some of us probably wouldn’t have stayed in the program without her.”
Each of Boring’s colleagues who joined her in the program finished their degree and followed different paths in their nursing careers. Midway through the program, Boring decided she would sit for the American Nursing Credentialing Center nurse executive board certification exam after graduating. She says the Walden MSN curriculum prepared her well for that test.
“Topics would come up that I didn’t just know but totally understood,” she says. “We studied, wrote papers, and discussed them. It was really the proving ground in my career.”
Today, Boring serves as executive vice president of nursing excellence for HealthLinx, a position she says would have been out of reach without her master’s degree and board certification. She and her team work with hospitals that are in pursuit of transforming their nursing culture.
“We engage with them and watch nurse leaders really let go and become risk-takers in the name of patient care, supporting autonomous nursing practice,” Boring says. “I’ve had the luxury of stepping back a bit and to be proud of what I’ve seen happen in the profession in the past 30 years.”
Other members of the Aultman group of Walden graduates have enjoyed similar successes. Clark now works as a clinical specialist for GOJO Industries, the inventor of PURELL® Hand Sanitizer. Another joined Boring as a consultant at HealthLinx. Although Boring has nothing but praise for the Walden educators she encountered, she gives equal credit for her educational success to the strong bond of their small group.