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Prepared and empowered to engage as a family nurse practitioner

  • Alumni

During his first clinical rotation in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Tyler Christy’s supervising physician was in the process of selling his practice. As the sole medical provider, he was overwhelmed and burned out. But this physician had not worked alongside a nurse practitioner before.

Christy demonstrated he was capable of assessing, diagnosing and developing treatment plans for the majority of the patients at the clinic. The physician was so impressed with Christy’s knowledge of disease and treatment, he reconsidered his entire business model, deciding to keep the doors of the clinic open, continue as the owner and hire nurse practitioners to handle all of the patient care.

Christy came to nursing as a second career, after serving five years of active duty as an infantry rifleman, including as squad leader, in the Marine Corps. He had enlisted right out of high school, and was one of only a few in his platoon trained as a combat lifesaver, receiving advanced medical training to stabilize wounded soldiers in the field in order to get them back to base. Following his discharge from the military, he decided to take what he had learned and shift gears.

“I decided to go out and try to help people, to better peoples’ lives, in a different way,” Christy said.

He jumped into an accelerated bachelor’s in nursing program, and after graduating in 2016, worked as an emergency room nurse. The experience opened his eyes to how erroneously emergency rooms are used for addressing patients’ primary care needs. Christy found that the majority of patients had medical issues that could be better addressed and managed in a primary care setting. He also heard many complaints from emergency room patients about their primary care doctors not listening or explaining their medical decisions very well. It inspired him to pursue an advanced degree in nursing, and in May 2023 he receives his MSN from USC.

“We, as nurse practitioners, are educators,” Christy said. “And educating the public about diseases, treatments and their medical options is key in their health. The general public is unaware of the reasons providers must order certain tests in certain orders or not at all, and as a nurse practitioner I can be key in the education, treatment and lifestyles of not just my patients but my community as well.”

USC was a good fit

Living in San Diego, and the father of three young children, Christy chose the MSN program at USC for its flexible hybrid model. Classes are online, but live, so interaction with his professors and classmates is in real-time. Additionally, some of his fellow San Diego classmates were often able to meet up in person and do group assignments together.

Christy is also grateful for the diversity in local clinical placement options provided by the MSN program. Within San Diego he was able to gain experience working in a private general practice clinic, a pediatric facility, a clinic for people experiencing homelessness and individuals incarcerated for substance use and a student health services within a community college. Two of these placements have offered him full-time positions post-graduation.

Throughout his educational journey Christy felt supported. “I guarantee if I were to reach out to any of my professors they would give me a helping hand in any way they could,” he said.

In particular, he felt that Michelle Zappas, clinical associate professor and director of the MSN program, went above and beyond, tailoring her lessons to the needs of the class. This includes recording a session for them on what to do after graduation, how to apply for licenses and tips for creating resumés and cover letters.

Zappas is confident Christy will make a wonderful nurse practitioner, and is proud that he is a graduate of the USC program. “He has been able to maintain an impressive GPA in our rigorous program while juggling work in an emergency department and three kids under the age of seven,” she said. “That’s quite a feat!”

While Christy has not yet decided on his next professional move, his goal is to work at a Veterans Health Administration (VA) hospital at some point in his career. He feels that his military background coupled with the knowledge and experience of his new profession would give him an advantage in providing a better approach to care.

For now, his focus is to make the biggest impact he can within his San Diego community, improving education and continuum of care options.

“The whole point of getting my MSN was to better control patients’ disease processes out of the hospital,” Christy said. “I am eager to get out there and start making a difference. I am feeling prepared, empowered and cannot wait to take this leap into being a family nurse practitioner.”

To reference the work of our faculty online, we ask that you directly quote their work where possible and attribute it to "FACULTY NAME, a professor in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work” (LINK: https://dworakpeck.usc.edu)