Jennifer Palmer’s goal was always to complete her master’s degree. In May 2021, she will reach that goal after studying for a master’s degree in nursing education for the last three years.
When she was obtaining her nursing associate degree at USI in the late 1990s, she knew she would push on to complete that full circle of education. Upon her graduation in 1998, Palmer started the next step and dove into classes for the bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1999, finishing her degree in 2005. Through the years of being a nurse and raising her family, Palmer never lost sight of that final step.
“It was always my plan to get my master’s degree when my youngest son finished high school,” she said. “USI really has a top-notch nursing program. I’ve known nurses all over the country and the world, and I’m just happy with the programs offered here at USI.”
A nurse for 23 years, Palmer’s known the education path has always been for her. In her current position of Professional Development Specialist in the Center for Health Professions Lifelong Learning at USI, she and other staff members work to help nurses, physicians, pharmacists and any other health professionals continue their education in the field. Obtaining her master’s degree in nursing education just felt like the natural step for her.
“I loved being an educator while being a nurse. If you are a nurse, you are an educator – for patients, for families,” she said. “I worked at a hospital for several years but moved into a unit doing what I do now – continuing education, CPR, certification classes, things of that nature.”
Through the process of obtaining this degree, Palmer is quick to sing the praises of her family, co-workers, boss and the instructors at USI. Their support and instruction have meant a lot to her and allowed her to complete this longtime goal, especially when she faced health challenges during her three years of studies.
“The instructors have been phenomenal in working with me to make sure I take care of my health. They have been wonderful,” she said.
One instructor, Barbara Davis, PhD, RN, Professor Emerita, left a particularly strong impression on Palmer. Unfortunately, Davis passed away not long after Palmer’s class with her ended.
“It hurt. I was able to attend her funeral with a few people from Health Professions. We were able to speak to her family and share our perspective of her with them,” she said. “I only had her for one semester, but we clicked and really connected.”
As Spring Commencement approaches, Palmer is excited about being able to check off her list “Earn master’s degree.”
“It’s nice to complete something I’ve been thinking about since the 1990s,” she said. “I’m excited for that to be done and to prove to myself that I can do it. To me, it’s a huge accomplishment.”
There are no plans to leave the Center for Health Professions Lifelong Learning department for Palmer. She plans to continue her work and use her new degree to help her continue to provide needed education to health professionals, not just in the Evansville area, but in the state, the country and around the world.
“I feel like it makes a difference with nurses who need to keep their education updated, to make sure they are staying up-to-date with information, staying certified, etc.,” she said. “I feel like we make a difference – we affect people all over the globe.”
For those USI employees considering starting the path toward a new degree or working toward their own master’s degree, Palmer’s advice is to go for it.
“Bite the bullet. It’s intimidating at first, nerve-wracking, but it’s definitely doable,” she said. “When I first started, I wasn’t sure I would get through it. But it’s worth it in the end, to look back and see what you’ve accomplished.”
“USI is supportive – I think USI is a campus that actually supports employees and the students both,” Palmer added. “I’ve definitely felt that, and I think anybody who decides to go back for a degree would feel that too.”
Congratulations to Jennifer Palmer on her achievement of graduating with a master’s degree in nursing education!
Photo Credit: Provided by Jennifer Palmer
Jennifer Palmer, left, is excited to spend more time with her family - including her young grandson - after completing her master's degree.