When Stuart Eynon graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2013, he found himself uninterested in a career sitting behind a desk and working at a computer.
He took a job at a long-term treatment center for troubled teenage boys in Wyoming, where he decided to change career paths and pursue a nursing degree.
“I figured out I loved being in the caregiver role,” Eynon says. “I felt like I could take what I found in Wyoming and sort of elevate it by going into nursing.”
Eynon started at the University of Colorado College of Nursing’s accelerated (UCAN) program and changed his plan for what his nursing career would look like. He thought he’d work in the ER, ICU, or take a critical care track after graduation, but something made him change his mind: his psychology class and doing a clinical rotation in inpatient psychiatry.
“I thought (the clinical rotation) was so interesting getting to know patients, getting to know their backgrounds, what their life was like, and what are their challenges,” he says. “Everything clicked and it brought me back to when I was working with adolescent boys in Wyoming. I felt like this was an environment that I was really comfortable in, and I knew at that moment what I wanted to do as a nurse.”
Continuing His Education at CU Nursing
Eynon graduated from the UCAN program right before the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2019 and got a job in early 2020. He worked in a hospital’s med surge and COVID-19 units for about a year until he decided to get a master’s degree from CU Nursing through its Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Program.
“I had a great experience in my undergrad psych class, and I knew the instructor of that course was teaching in the grad program as well,” he says. “I knew if she was any indication of the quality of the faculty as a whole, I was going to have a good experience and education. I also liked that CU Nursing has its own preceptors for its students, whereas in other programs students are on their own to find their preceptor.”
Eynon has worked full-time through the PMHNP program in the adult inpatient psychiatric unit at Porter Hospital in south Denver. He says his managers would work around his schedule and took PTO days to help balance work and school.
“It’s been a lot, but I’ve still been able to live my life,” he says. “I got married, went on vacations, and I was able to do the things I love – maybe not quite as much as I’d like – but I’ve still managed to make things happen. You find your own way.”
Eynon says being able to take classes online allowed for more flexibility and the ability to learn at home.
“I still felt like I had a lot of contact with faculty,” he says. “I know my faculty and they know me; they know what I bring to the team. I think all the connections that I have and our whole cohort have to our faculty are really cool. We got to know each other.”
He credits his clinical rotations – including one at Denver Health – as some of the most rewarding experiences in the program.
“I’ve had very high-quality clinical rotations with very experienced psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners who are eager and excited to teach,” he says. “I’ve had this great string of mentors that CU Nursing has connected me with over the course of the program.”
“I also feel like I’ve been exposed to so much evidence, guidelines, and best practices in our field. You’re exposed to it repeatedly, so it sticks at some point. You hear it first in your first semester superficially, and then you come back to it in a deeper way in later semesters, so it helps the information stick and makes me feel like I’m ready to implement what I’ve learned in practice once I graduate,” he says.
Plans for the Future
Eynon is unsure where his PMHNP degree will lead him but believes he will have several opportunities. He hopes to become a Nurse Practitioner in an inpatient psychiatric unit.
“I find that working with patients in that unit is really rewarding because oftentimes in the span of a few weeks, you can give them the right medication or a life stressor abates a little, and you can see them improve so much,” he says. “Once we find the right treatment, you find that after a few weeks, they improve so much and leave a different person.”
He also has this advice for future PMHNP students: take risks and have confidence in yourself.
“You may not feel like an expert yet, but most of your patients are going to look at you as an expert,” he says. “The advice you offer them, the perspectives you bring to appointments with them are those of a growing expert. So have confidence in that and grow into that. You may not feel like an expert yet, but you will.”