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Student Success

Miami’s Nursing graduate program celebrates first cohort of MSN trained nurses

Nursing Department ready to help fill strong demand for primary care providers nationally

MSN graduating cohort group photo
Pictured left to right are Jen Rode (director of Graduate Nursing Programs), Catherine Johnson, Ben Flinders, Ty Raterman, Marina Mendes, Lindsey Norquist, Lovepreet Ahluwalia, Tricia Neu (director of FNP Track), Stephanie Nicely (chair of Nursing), and Brooke Flinders (associate provost for faculty affairs).
Student Success

Miami’s Nursing graduate program celebrates first cohort of MSN trained nurses

Pictured left to right are Jen Rode (director of Graduate Nursing Programs), Catherine Johnson, Ben Flinders, Ty Raterman, Marina Mendes, Lindsey Norquist, Lovepreet Ahluwalia, Tricia Neu (director of FNP Track), Stephanie Nicely (chair of Nursing), and Brooke Flinders (associate provost for faculty affairs).

This spring, Miami University's Nursing Department will celebrate a major milestone — its first graduates in the new online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. The seven MSN trained nurses comprise the first cohort in the growing field of advanced practice nursing.

Six of the new graduates will earn their Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree, which prepares them to work as primary care providers. One of the new graduates will earn a Nurse Executive Leadership Masters, designed to prepare nurses for executive-level roles in a healthcare organization.

Launched in 2022, Miami's online Master of Science in Nursing was created to offer an affordable and convenient educational path for current nurses who want to pursue a higher level of practice. Fully online, Nursing students can complete one of two tracks: family nurse practitioner or nurse executive leadership. Small class sizes provide personal attention, and flexible scheduling allows working nurses to attain their advanced degrees while juggling careers and family obligations by attending classes either full- or part-time.

"Our Nursing graduates told us they wanted an MSN program," said Jennifer Rode, director of graduate nursing programs. "We have a shortage of primary care providers, and the need is only going to grow. Demand for advanced practice nurses is strong, and our BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) graduates wanted to be able to continue their advanced training at Miami."

The Miami Nursing Department's reputation for excellence in nursing education was a significant reason undergraduate students requested the option to continue their graduate education at the university. Miami Nursing students report feeling supported by and connected to faculty members, which they said ultimately improves their nursing skills.

Catherine Johnson, who graduated from Miami Regionals' BSN program in 2015, said she postponed her master's in Nursing until Miami opened its MSN program for enrollment.

"Miami's program is very competitive and has a great reputation," she said. "I wanted to keep my pedigree. Miami's Nursing Department doesn't just prepare you for the medical side of nursing, they also prepare you for the spiritual and emotional side of nursing care. It's a holistic model curriculum. Other programs don't emphasize that model as much as Miami does."

Lovepreet Ahluwalia, who graduated from Miami Regionals' BSN program in 2022, said she knew she didn't want to go anywhere else for her MSN training due to her positive experience during her years as an undergraduate. The supportive atmosphere and engaged faculty made her decision easy.

As an example of the Nursing Department's hands-on approach, Ahluwalia cited her preceptor experience, a required part of MSN training that provides one-on-one clinical experience with a licensed, practicing nurse practitioner. In many nursing programs, preceptorships are the responsibility of the student to secure, which can be time-consuming and stressful. Miami's MSN program offers preceptor placement for all candidates, a rarity for most MSN training.

"I was very grateful that the university found a preceptor for me," Ahluwalia said. "Because my professors knew me, they found a preceptor who matched my learning style. That really helped to build my confidence. I am so grateful because it was one less burden I had to worry about."

Rode said the Nursing Department made the decision to prioritize preceptor placement when it launched its graduate program.

"This sets us apart from many other programs out there," she said. "It can be very difficult to find a preceptorship. It's time-consuming for practitioners to offer preceptorships, and many are reluctant to take it on, or they charge high fees. We have a full-time coordinator who establishes relationships with regional health care organizations, so our students can land preceptorships close to where they live without worry or added expense."

Tricia Neu, director of Miami's Family Nurse Practitioner program, said the Nursing Department takes care to find preceptors who match the interests and professional goals of each student.

"We identify areas or specialties they want to pursue and then we try to match them with a preceptor in that specialty," she said. "We personalize it for them. We are fortunate to have great community partnerships that allow us to place students in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois."

In addition to preceptor placement, Miami's MSN program also includes a skills weekend at the Oxford campus' new Clinical Health Sciences and Wellness Facility. This two-day training provides an intensive hands-on experience in many of the skills primary care providers encounter in daily practice, such as casting, stitching sutures, and draining abscess wounds.

"This helps them be prepared before they go into a clinical setting," Rode said. "We heard from many health care organizations that FNP graduates are often lacking in these skills, so we wanted to make sure our graduates were ready for these medical scenarios. They can feel more confident in their first clinical placement knowing they've had experience with these procedures."

For Ty Raterman, who will graduate as an FNP in May, Miami's graduate program checked all the right boxes — strong reputation, excellent value, and the convenience of online learning. But as a former university professor pursuing nursing as a second career, Raterman understood more than most the dedication of Miami's Nursing faculty.

"Professor Neu and the rest of the faculty are so dedicated to making our online learning experience as meaningful as it can be," said Raterman, who spent eight years teaching philosophy at the University of the Pacific in Northern California. He became a tenured professor in 2012 before leaving in 2014 to return to Ohio to help his parents manage their farm as they were getting older. 

He chose to switch careers once back in his home state and was drawn to primary care after having once considered medical school in his early college days. With his personal experience in a university teaching role, he respected the Miami Nursing Department's efforts to keep MSN students fully engaged, even in a virtual environment. 

"Professor Neu, for example, went out of her way to give us opportunities for synchronous experiences with our online sessions," Raterman explained. "The robust content of her coverage of the textbook material, which she supplemented with her own examples from her clinical experience, made the coursework very engaging."

Raterman added, "Honestly, she's been the biggest champion of my promise as a nurse practitioner. She's facilitated some incredibly important professional networking for me.That wouldn't happen just anywhere. Her positivity has helped fuel my enthusiasm and confidence. Thanks to my experience at Miami, I feel well prepared and excited for what's next."

The program can be completed in just 21 months as a full-time student or in less than three years when attending part-time. Applications are due Aug. 1 for a fall semester start date. More information can be found at