Student Spotlight: Meg Cotton, SPHP Program

Meg Cotton, deployed soldier and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Meg Cotton is an active duty service member, single mom, Registered Nurse, and an aspiring Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

As a deployed soldier, she has chosen to take UNE’s SPHP classes for the flexibility of schedule and ease of access. Here she talks about being a student while on deployment, her experience with the coursework, and her goals for the future.

What motivated you to take science prerequisites courses?

I started at UNE taking the Medical Biochemistry course in anticipation of entering a doctoral program to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

Why were you looking for online courses?

I’m in the military, and it’s difficult to manage taking courses locally because of the uncertain nature of my position. For example, since I began that first class, I have had training in Miami, continued taking the course while I’ve been deployed, and in the middle of all of that we had a global pandemic, so I was homeschooling. Now that I’ve been deployed, I’ve done my homework in a couple of different countries.

I’m very grateful for the flexibility, which has made the coursework feasible from a logistical standpoint. After I took and passed the Biochem course, I ultimately was successful in gaining entrance to the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) doctoral program at Texas Christian University, and I’ll be starting in January.

Had it not been for the online science prerequisite courses at UNE Online, I would have been at least a year behind in terms of career progression.

What is a CRNA?

It stands for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. In the Army, our CRNA is the only anesthesia provider on our forward resuscitative surgical teams (FRST). It is a very great responsibility in terms of what you’re doing for the patient’s comfort and survival.

It’s such a huge responsibility, that to me, going back to school to become a CRNA, and taking additional courses to do well in the program is not about checking a box. I am using these courses to gain a deeper understanding of the human body and how the different systems interact.

Did you take Biochemistry as a prerequisite for the CRNA program?

Yes, but I am continuing coursework while deployed as a refresher. I just started the online Anatomy Lecture/Lab course. It had been 13 years since I’d first taken Anatomy, so it has been awesome to step back into a student role. I’ve enjoyed connecting my direct clinical experience back to academic and foundational theory. I feel that I’ve been able to really build on my practice as a nurse.

I am considering also taking the Medical Physiology Lecture/Lab before I start school in January, also as a refresher, to give me an edge in my CRNA coursework. It’s really convenient, because UNE starts classes every few weeks, so I have flexibility there too.

Have you benefited from the fact that all of the courses are centered around the health professions?

Yes, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the concepts are geared toward health-related topics. Every assignment and learning objective is tied in some way to something clinical.

On average, I have been watching three lectures a week – and at the end of each was some type of clinical connection where the lecturer ties the topic back to human medicine. They link the abstract concepts back to what I want to do – for example, how biochemistry fits in with physiology, or how it fits in with the human anatomy and impacts patient care.Meg Cotton, deployed soldier and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

All of the courses are 16-weeks and completely self-paced. How has that experience been for you?

I admit, in the beginning, I got behind. Lots of things happened at the same time for me. I was going through training, then there was the pandemic, and as a single mom, I had to homeschool because schools were out.

It ended up being a great lesson though.

When the time came to spin up for deployment, I felt pressure and uncertainty about what was going to lie ahead. I knew I could potentially go a couple of weeks with no internet connection, so before I deployed, I knocked out as many assignments as I possibly could.

I’m doing the same thing with Anatomy this session. I anticipate not being in touch for portions of the 16-week class duration, so I’ve worked to get ahead on my assignments. I built in a buffer.

Any advice for potential students considering our science prerequisites courses?

Definitely take only one course at a time. I initially planned on taking Statistics as well as Biochem. One school I applied to needed a recent Statistics course, and although I took it as an undergrad, I felt I could have used a refresher. I ended up choosing a different school that did not have a Statistics requirement, and I’m so glad I only took one course.

These are not basic classes. Going in they do advise you to take one at a time – and they are right. These courses have high academic rigor. Working as a nurse during a pandemic, and as a single mom, I had to prioritize.

As a working professional, it’s a challenge to reserve time after work to do schoolwork. But I’m glad I’m doing it. I feel that it will set me up for success in my CRNA doctorate program.

Learn more about our online science prerequisites courses

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