Q & A With Joni Watson, MSN, MBA, RN, OCN®

Joni Watson, MSN, MBA, RN, OCN®, is an oncology clinical nurse manager. She holds her degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at Tyler. Joni resides in Austin and enjoys reading, shoe shopping, and spending time with her family. You can also find Joni at Nursetopia and the Oncology Nursing Society’s Re:Connect or network with her via Twitter. Joni was kind enough to share her experience as an MSN with our readers who may be exploring an MSN career of their own.


  1. Can you walk us through your career path? How did you get to where you are now, working as a clinical nurse manager?
  2. As a clinical nurse manager, what are your key responsibilities?
  3. You have several different degrees. Can you explain your educational path?
  4. Who would you recommend should earn an MSN degree?
  5. What benefits have having an MSN degree afforded you in your career?
  6. How has technology, in academic settings and professional settings, affected nursing as a profession?
  7. Is there a “hot” area of nursing that students might want to explore?
  8. What is one piece of advice you would give to a BSN student who is just starting out in the field?
  9. What do you see as the biggest challenges or hurdles facing nurses today?
  10. Are there any professional associations, conferences, books, or other resources you would recommend to aspiring nurses?

1. Can you walk us through your career path? How did you get to where you are now, working as a clinical nurse manager?

My career path has diverged a few times, sometimes unexpectedly. I graduated with my BSN and was recruited by a hospital to work in labor a delivery, which was my dream and I just knew that’s where I was going to work the entire time I was going through nursing school. After my intense training, a more senior nurse came back to that specific unit, and they offered her my open position. I had to float to another unit, which was oncology. I cried when I found out. Thankfully I had completed my critical care rotation on a bone marrow transplant unit, and thought maybe I could swing oncology for a while – until another position opened on the labor and delivery unit. Turns out, I fell in love with oncology. I stayed on the oncology unit while I completed my graduate program – a dual MSN/MBA program, and learned from some crazy brilliant nurses who mentored me. After receiving my degrees, I ran a nonprofit program focusing on statewide education, and then I transitioned back into clinical care, which I missed. Overall, it’s been consistent small steps to increase my education, expand my network, listen to the wise people around me, and recognize opportunities when they arise that’s brought me where I am today.

2. As a clinical nurse manager, what are your key responsibilities?

I manage a multidisciplinary team in ambulatory care. I liaise between my team and administrators to provide the best care for patients possible. I focus on both the details and the big picture, which is easier said than done.

3. You have several different degrees. Can you explain your educational path?

I obtained my BSN, and I knew that degree was only the beginning. Education is a lifelong process for nurses anyway, and formal education is no different. As soon as had about six months of full-time work “under my belt,” I enrolled in graduate school. The Dean of Graduate Studies spent time with me, asking me questions about what I enjoy, and she helped me pinpoint my love of systems and process improvements through operations changes. I decided to enroll in the dual MSN/MBA program. It took me an additional year than my other schoolmates, but it was the right choice for me. I did find a passion, and I feel like having a business degree has enhanced my nursing and given me a different perspective of health care as well as made me more marketable and appealing to employers. Again, my graduate degrees are not the end. I plan to apply to doctoral school this fall.

4. Who would you recommend should earn an MSN degree?

Any nurse with a BSN needs to take the step towards an MSN. In fact, nursing students entering their basic nursing program need to keep it in mind, knowing the undergraduate program is only the beginning of their formal education. With the recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Future of Nursing report, all nurses should be prepared to “step-up” their education.

5.What benefits have having an MSN degree afforded you in your career?

Well, the most obvious is pay. My salary almost fully doubled with my first job that required an MSN, and rightly so as the work was very different. My graduate degrees have also given me opportunities to work with other master’s-prepared nurses and administrators and executives to make large changes in education, partnerships, hospital processes, you name it. The work is mentally stimulating and emotionally rewarding.

6. How has technology, in academic settings and professional settings, affected nursing as a profession?

Technology in both academic and professional settings is impactful, for sure. Technology in and of itself is amoral – it is neither good nor bad; it’s how we use it that makes it so. Technology allowed me to go to graduate school while I worked nights full-time and had my first child. Technology allows me to share patient information across sites with other healthcare providers. Technology lets me connect with other professionals across the globe with a smartphone or tablet. Because we’re all still learning the “right” ways to use technology, it can cause concerns, though. Texting orders, taking pictures of patients, talking about other students via social networks – nursing, as is all of health care, is adapting and trying to prevent these things.

7. Is there a “hot” area of nursing that students might want to explore?

Well, I am completely biased as an oncology nurse. It is a great specialty with many opportunities. However, I think students need to take time to find their passions because there is a nursing niche for everyone from tech lovers to adrenaline junkies.

8. What is one piece of advice you would give to a BSN student who is just starting out in the field?

Surround yourself with encouragers. Nursing school is hard; nursing is hard. You need people around you who will support your goals even when you think you can’t. It’s worth it. You can do it.

9. What do you see as the biggest challenges or hurdles facing nurses today?

That’s a loaded question because there are so many challenges for nursing just as there are for health care, in general. Nursing has an aging workforce, and we are caring for increasingly more complex patients during longer shifts with fewer resources. Questions with healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act loom, and those answers will impact nurses because they will impact millions of people we collectively serve.

10. Are there any professional associations, conferences, books, or other resources you would recommend to aspiring nurses?

I encourage nursing students or aspiring nurses to join a professional nursing organization of their choice. There are typically student rates, and the organizations or associations often provide excellent education, networking, and insight into nursing.


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