A graduate student at Tennessee Tech University who is pursuing his Master of Science in Nursing Education degree manages to find balance between school, two jobs and a new baby at home to secure his family’s future.
Tyler Gentry, a Cookeville native, graduated in December 2020 from Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. He is currently in his first semester of graduate school and chose to come back to Tech because of his previous knowledge of the nursing program’s high standards.
“I am excited to work on my MSN degree here at Tech and I have the incredible opportunity to work with fantastic and absolutely genius faculty here in the school of nursing,” Gentry said.
Gentry currently works full-time at Cookeville Regional Medical Center as a Registered Nurse in Five North, a surgical and medical wing. There they do both pre-op and post-op. Aside from patient care, he helps new grads get acclimated to the acute care setting, which is much different than an academic setting, according to Gentry.
“Working two jobs and going to grad school is a challenge. Everything for the graduate degree is online. So that really lends to my ability to just, on my own time, be able to do things. I’m not really time constrained, which is fantastic,” Gentry said. “I also have a new baby at home, and I do get to spend time with him while doing this, which is really a main drive in choosing Tech’s program, because it is all online. With nursing, clinical hours that are required come later so it gives you time to prepare, so to speak. But it’s been very doable, and I have no regrets.”
His second job is part-time as the lab specialist at Tech’s Whitson-Hester School of Nursing. There he works with nursing students in their sophomore year when they first start out doing their fundamental skills health assessments, getting set up and prepared. He also works with senior nursing students, helping to get them prepared to graduate and go into clinical practice.
“We get so much interaction with our students and our patients and it's a great thing to really get to see the progressions,” Gentry said.
He puts in 65 hours a week, employment wise, and then with school he has his schoolwork, which he spends “anywhere from three to five hours a day.” The work is involved, and it does take a lot of time according to Gentry. Time management is always an issue. He said you always want to do the best and just continue doing as much as possible. One must pick and choose what are the most important aspects of life. He said family is important, as well as work and education, and “we provide for our families through education.”
“I recently obtained my board certification in vascular access and have a passion for educating nurses and students in the best practice guidelines for vascular access,” Gentry said. “I hope, once I obtain my master's degree, to become a lecturer in the WHSON, because it feels like home, and to start building my CV. I want to pursue a terminal degree, but I would like to get my feet under me first.”
Gentry also would like to develop a course covering intravenous therapies and vascular access for undergraduate nursing students. His hope is that when these new nurses graduate, they would be more comfortable in practice with intravenous line therapy and the selection, maintenance, and troubleshooting of vascular devices.
Gentry said he is grateful for the opportunity to connect with others going through the program as well and to learn from their area of concentration.
“I believe in my current class, I am the only MSN-Ed major, so I have had the opportunity to hear from several students with different views coming from the family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health NP concentrations,” Gentry said. “It has been fascinating to see the different goals and processes we each have.”
The ability to reach out to the instructors and get quick responses is a component of the success of the programs at Tech according to Gentry. The chance to speak with others who have been through the program and who now mentor others like Cary Cass, he said, who are there to help you, offers that added support.
“They want you to succeed,” Gentry said. “And I feel like that's been the best and working with some folks that have been through it.”
Tech does a first-rate job of making sure that by time the undergraduate or graduate nurses leave their programs that they're well prepared, according to Gentry. He said the faculty and staff at Tech really care about what the students do and want to make sure they succeed and provide the community with the best health care available.
“Tech’s program is fantastic, and the master's education is very well laid out. The faculty in the nursing program and the graduate studies office have been fantastic to work with,” Gentry said. “They make it easy, it’s convenient and affordable, honestly. And everything is on your time, it bodes well for working professionals. I tell folks all the time that if they are planning on going back for their master’s to come here, it prepares you well. I highly recommend it, and we'd love to see anybody succeed, so it's there, it's available, it's up to you.”
For more information on the WHSON and its graduate programs visit https://www.tntech.edu/nursing/msn-program.php, or the College of Graduate Studies at https://www.tntech.edu/graduatestudies/index.php.