Natasha Foster didn’t have to look far for inspiration to return to college.
“I have always liked education and thought I would go back and earn a master’s eventually,” she said. “I thought it would be farther down the road when my children were bigger. Then, my husband, Matt, finished his master’s degree this spring.
“Watching him do that made me want to do it myself. He encouraged me to do it now. There is always a reason to put things off, so I have been making it work.”
Foster is on track to complete the online Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Education program at the University of Southern Maine (USM) in August 2021.
She works per diem in the maternal child department at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, Maine. She and her husband have four children — Kaira (10), Luke (8), Mark (5) and Annika (1), and she has homeschooled them for the past six years.
“I couldn’t have done this in a traditional format at this time in my life,” she said. “The online format has been great for me. It’s flexible. I never had any online courses in my undergrad, but it was a smooth transition.
“The USM professors are helpful and try very hard to make sure we are acclimating well. They are good about replying quickly to any questions I have.”
The estimated 18-month time to completion was a deciding factor for Foster, and choosing USM’s MS in Nursing program was a no-brainer.
“Most of the other programs I looked at were two or three years,” she said. “When I saw that USM’s program had the accelerated option, I was very interested.
“I would rather work hard for a year and be done — that was very appealing. As a Maine resident, I wanted to graduate from a Maine school. USM has a great reputation and a strong nursing program.”
Change of Plans
Foster was born in Wisconsin and raised in central Maine. She stumbled into nursing after starting college as a pre-med major for physical therapy.
“I got a couple of years into the program and decided it wasn’t for me,” she said. “I was looking for something else that would accept most of my credits.
“Nursing was right there, so I thought I would give it a try. It ended up being a perfect fit. I love the flexibility and that it’s a caring, helping profession.”
Since graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Husson University in 2007, Foster has spent 12 years as an obstetric nurse. She has worked at Franklin Memorial for a little more than five years.
NUR 603: Nursing Theory and Knowledge Development has been her favorite course in the program, which she started in July 2020.
“Going into it, I thought that would probably be my least favorite class,” she said. “My professor, Jeanne Gottlieb, was so good. She built in all of these creative projects.”
Foster enjoyed being challenged to think out of the box and noted that faculty have “the power to make any content interesting if they are creative.”
She didn’t have much downtime after her husband graduated with a master’s degree in business from Thomas College, but her friends and family have been in her corner from the outset.
“They are all very encouraging and supportive,” she said. “I have a lot going on, but I also give myself some grace. I might have to serve frozen pizza for dinner more often than I prefer, but it’s a short time and will be worth it in the end.”
Head of the Class
Foster hopes to walk in an in-person commencement ceremony if the pandemic allows, but she knows it could be virtual. She plans to eventually teach nursing at the college level.
“There are so many options in nursing,” she said. “You can go in any direction. I want to teach online classes while my kids are still little because that would give me flexibility.
“As they get older and need less of my time, I look forward to teaching in an in-person format. For now, online teaching is going to be a good fit for me. I take on a lot of teaching aspects in my current job, and I have been a childbirth educator for the last nine years.”
She hopes the shortage of nursing faculty in colleges will work in her favor when she’s ready to teach.
Until then, Foster continues to broaden the horizons of her nursing practice while in the MS in Nursing program.
“I have found myself using things I have learned at my job now,” she said. “Moving forward into education, the degree will also be useful. On a personal level, it has been really good for my children to see both my husband and me working hard at our education. I hope it helps instill the value of learning in them.”
Foster enjoys camping, hiking and mountain biking with her family in her free time. She is proof that earning a master’s degree is doable, even with a full plate.
“You have more time than you think you do,” she said. “Most of us have busy lives and think, ‘When am I going to have time to do school and homework with everything in life?’ I have learned that you can be more efficient with your time than you realize.”
Learn more about USM’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Education program.