Interview with Dr. Terri Schmitt from Chamberlain College of Nursing

Terri Schmitt, PhD, ARNP, FNP-BC, CDE

Terri Schmitt, PhD, ARNP, FNP-BC, CDE

Terri Schmitt, PhD, ARNP, FNP-BC, CDE, is an assistant professor in Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner specialty track.

  1. To start us off, could you please share with us a bit about your background, what got you interested in nursing, and what you’re currently doing in the field?
  2. You are currently an assistant professor at Chamberlain College of Nursing. What courses do you teach and at what level?
  3. Many of Chamberlain’s nursing programs are offered online. How do these programs work in terms of clinical and coursework requirements?
  4. For students interested in an online program, could you share with our readers what you believe to be the benefits on distance learning?
  5. What are a few of the main concerns or questions students have when it comes to enrolling and completing a nursing degree program?
  6. Chamberlain offers a flexible learning environment for its students. What makes Chamberlain unique in its approach to learning and teaching?
  7. What advice do you have for those interested in enrolling in a nursing degree program?

1) ONPP.com: To start us off, could you please share with us a bit about your background, what got you interested in nursing, and what you’re currently doing in the field?

[Dr. Terri Schmitt] My interest in nursing began when I shadowed a neonatologist for an honors biology assignment in high school. Halfway through the day I asked him if I could instead watch the nurses – I found their jobs to be more interesting. From that day forward, I was hooked.

During my sophomore year of college, my mom suffered a myocardial infarction which required open heart surgery. Watching the nurses care for her only solidified my desire to enter the profession. They were the most wise, informed and professional members of the team that cared for her. I was in awe.
As for what I am currently doing, I must say that I am probably the one of the luckiest nurses in the profession. I get to combine three of my passions: students and pediatrics and promoting access to healthcare.

I currently teach full-time in Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Family Nurse Practitioner specialty track. I love teaching, not because of any specific duty or opportunity, but because of the students, who are the future of nursing. They are full of excitement and great ideas. I like to be around students, because they inspire me to keep the faith.

I also practice part-time in a busy private pediatric endocrinology clinic in Palm Beach County, Fla. I have practiced in pediatrics throughout my nursing career and am thrilled that I am able to continue practicing in this area. Being able to continue holding a practice while teaching not only keeps me grounded in clinical, which I love, but also keeps me abreast of current practice, enabling me to be a better teacher.

I believe in equal access to healthcare, particularly for our sickest or most vulnerable individuals. Currently, I live that out through serving one to two days a week, seeing patients for endocrine disorders in Children’s Medical Services in Palm Beach County with my collaborative practice physician.

2) ONPP.com: You are currently an assistant professor at Chamberlain College of Nursing. What courses do you teach and at what level?

[Dr. Terri Schmitt] This is a great question, because faculty at Chamberlain are truly a ‘team’. It is important for each of us to be able to teach a variety of core courses, so that we are familiar with all of the curriculum and can fill in whenever there is a need. I have taught several MSN courses, including the entry course that all graduate students take. I bring up that course because it is one of the most impressive courses I have seen any program provide to prepare students to be successful in graduate school and in online learning.

I am the subject matter expert for the epidemiology and care of the family courses that Chamberlain’s Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) specialty track students are required to take. I also teach and direct on-site immersion weekends that all students participate in to complete their advanced physical assessments. During the immersion weekend, students attend an in-person session, where they participate in hands-on learning of advanced assessment skills prior to beginning their clinical practicum requirements. As much as I love teaching online and giving students the opportunity to advance their education while continuing to work full-time, I do look forward to meeting the students face-to-face during the immersion weekend.

3) ONPP.com: Many of Chamberlain’s nursing programs are offered online. How do these programs work in terms of clinical and coursework requirements?

[Dr. Terri Schmitt] Chamberlain faculty in each specialty track work very hard to ensure that students have a complete, challenging and individualized education to meet their needs. For nursing students who are looking to pursuing online learning, Chamberlain does an outstanding job of streamlining content to be current and consistent across programs and courses.

Students in Chamberlain’s FNP specialty track are required to complete 125 clinical hours for each of five FNP-specific clinical practicum courses. Clinical hours are completed with a preceptor of the student’s choosing in their geographic location. Completion of clinical hours is critical for both direct application of classroom learning and preparation for clinical practice. In the FNP specialty track, we have a team of people who work with students to set up contracts with their chosen preceptors and then work in partnership with the preceptors, acting as a communication hub between the preceptors and faculty and creating a centralized and efficient group to help manage clinical sites and preceptors.

4) ONPP.com: For students interested in an online program, could you share with our readers what you believe to be the benefits on distance learning?

[Dr. Terri Schmitt] Where do I start? I am a true believer in online learning. Online learning traverses time, geography and cultural and social boundaries. The beauty of online learning is that it can literally be done at anytime from anywhere. Students in the online classroom represent an eclectic range of geographic locations, experiences, opinions and ideas. Likewise, online discussions are more conducive to many students who do not feel as comfortable communicating and asking questions in an in-person setting.

Along the same lines, being required to think and logically build arguments and new ideas through existing evidence or gaps in evidence brings out all sort of interesting interactions in an online environment. I am routinely blown away by the ideas students bring up in discussions. Teaching them where to find more evidence and plan, and pushing them to actually enact their ideas, is where the job of faculty comes into play.

5) ONPP.com: What are a few of the main concerns or questions students have when it comes to enrolling and completing a nursing degree program?

[Dr. Terri Schmitt] I think one of the most routine questions I get from students is “Can I do this?” The answer is yes! Graduate school, no matter the medium, is about tenacity.

I think one of the misconceptions in online learning is that you will have more free time than if you took a class in-person. While students do work and maintain their family life while participating in online programs, the education itself is as time- and performance-demanding as a seated program. The only difference in online education is that the student may choose when he or she enters a classroom and has some flexibility week-to-week in completing lessons and assignments. They also don’t have to drive or find parking, which is an unexpected bonus.

6) ONPP.com: Chamberlain offers a flexible learning environment for its students. What makes Chamberlain unique in its approach to learning and teaching?

[Dr. Terri Schmitt] Chamberlain delivers personal, student-focused learning based on 125 years of excellence in nursing education. We offer our students attention and support throughout our programs to help students realize their career and life goals.

Besides the teamwork and the goal at Chamberlain to focus on students, Chamberlain faculty are as experienced and eclectic as the students they teach. In one course, you could have a faculty member who lives and practices in Washington, D.C., with a specialty in women’s health. Then for the next course, you could have a faculty member who lives on the other side of the country, who has a specialty in prison health. The depth and breadth of faculty expertise at Chamberlain is truly impressive. All graduate faculty members hold doctorate degrees and have undergone comprehensive training to help prepare us to teach in these programs.

The experiences that students gain in practicums and in the well-developed core courses and individual tracks are above average. If a student is looking for variety in faculty and a strong commitment to consistency and excellence, they should consider Chamberlain. Chamberlain’s mission statement says it all, “Chamberlain provides a superior nursing education experience distinguished by academic excellence, innovation, integrity and world-class service. We are committed to graduating compassionate, ethical and knowledgeable nurse leaders who are empowered to transform healthcare.”

7) ONPP.com: What advice do you have for those interested in enrolling in a nursing degree program?

[Dr. Terri Schmitt] Just do it! You have nothing to lose, and there is a unique program out there that will fit your needs and your nursing philosophy. The inconvenience of study time is nothing compared to the joy of being equipped to change healthcare.

If program length intimidates you, I offer the advice my husband gave me when I considered one of my graduate degrees: In two to three years, you will be the same age as you would be regardless of whether you go to school or not, what do you want to have accomplished in that time? When considering schools, ask a lot of questions of admissions, students and faculty.

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