Why I am smiling

By Tiffany M. Montgomery | 08/20/2016

You can now call me Dr. Tiffany Montgomery!

On 10 June 2016, my PhD was conferred! I am officially Tiffany M. Montgomery, PhD, RNC-OB, C-EFM, so you can now call me Dr. Tiffany Montgomery! The journey was long and very difficult at times, but I made it. I have a ton of respect for those who came before me, and I promise to make myself available—whenever possible—to mentor those coming behind me.
 
Tiffany Montgomery in her graduation gownI love sharing with others all the things I wish someone had shared with me. It’s one of the reasons I’m grateful for the opportunity to write for Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL). This blog, “Taking hold of my dreams,” is the perfect platform to share some of that wisdom. As Mr. Mattson, the editor of RNL, and I agreed when I began posting entries in June 2011—my first post was titled “I’m going to Disneyland!"—I would use my blog to share my PhD journey with readers.
 
In February of this year, I asked Mr. Mattson—I told him up front that’s what I would always call him—if he wanted me to continue writing “Taking hold of my dreams” or if I should wrap it up. He responded: “I definitely do not want you to wrap up ‘Taking hold of my dreams.’ As you know, ‘dreams’ is plural in that title, and I’m watching to see more of your dreams become reality.” So, 45 blog posts after I began my journey, here I am, and I hope to continue sharing my experiences with wide-eyed, eager undergraduate and graduate nursing students for many years to come.
 
If I were to select a handful of past blog posts I’d like future PhD students to read, they would come from various points in my journey. After taking a little time to think about it, I came up with a short, five-post reading list. The following entries are very telling of my time as a PhD student. They reflect conversations I had, things I learned (usually by trial and error), and wisdom I gained. Follow me, if you will, on the five-year journey that I shared with RNL readers. And check out the reader comments!
 
10 things I learned in my first quarter as a PhD student (December 2011)
This post was an overview of my crash course Grad School 101. When I began my PhD program, I had been an L&D nurse for six years, but I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what it would take to be a successful doctoral student. Nonetheless, I quit my full-time job, took a per-diem position, and dove headfirst into life as a PhD student. I quickly learned that being in a PhD program is starkly different from being in an MSN program. Thankfully, I made a routine of those things that were beneficial to me and let go of anything I found detrimental to my success. Seeing as I completed my first term with a 4.0 GPA, I must have done something right. I hope these tips yield the same positive outcome for you.
 
What do you do with a PhD in nursing? (October 2012)
After being asked this question more times than I would have liked, I decided to write about it. Must have been a good decision because this post became one of the most-read articles in the history of RNL. I’m glad to know readers had such a great interest in the topic. And, seeing as I am still asked this question fairly often, it’s helpful that I have somewhere to point inquiring minds. Until PhD-prepared nurses are regularly seen outside the hallowed halls of Ivory Tower, people—nurses and non-nurses alike—will continue to ask this question. We still have a ways to go before people realize the importance of nursing research, but we’re further along today than we were when I began my PhD program. As long as we keep moving, we’ll get there.
 
PhD or DNP? How to choose (November 2012)
This is another topic that came up fairly often while I was pursuing my doctoral degree. Many nurses have the desire to obtain a doctorate, but they are often unsure of the difference between the terminal doctoral degree (PhD) and the practice doctoral degree (DNP). I like to think this blog post does a great job of explaining the differences between these two degrees and helps potential doctoral students decide which one is best for their chosen career path. Neither doctoral degree in nursing is better than the other, although they are vastly different. It’s important to understand and acknowledge these differences before deciding which degree is the one for you.
 
Ready, set, write: 5 tips for becoming a better writer (April 2015)
Writing is not an aspect of higher education that most students enjoy. When you are forced to write a dissertation, your disdain for writing can turn into pure hatred. As someone who actually enjoys writing, even I found it difficult to write my dissertation. There are many resources available to help doctoral students who are dealing with an aversion to writing. This blog post was my attempt to share what worked for me. Oddly enough, it was my time away from writing—time spent running—that helped my writing the most. In addition to the health benefits of running and the camaraderie I experienced with women in my running group, I was able to take lessons I learned to become a better runner and apply them to my writing. For me, it was running. For you, it may be something totally different. Whatever the case, the tips in this blog post will help you to increase your writing quality and productivity.
 
Selecting your dissertation committee (January 2016)
This is arguably the most important blog post I have written to date. It is common practice for the chair of a doctoral student’s dissertation committee to determine its members. And while the chair’s ability to work with other members of the committee is of utmost importance, it is also important that all bases are covered from the viewpoint of the student. I cannot overemphasize the need to have a “cheerleader” on your committee. Things happen. Unanticipated hurdles must be overcome. Your cheerleader will be the one to help lift your spirits and keep you headed toward your goal—graduation. I will spare you the details here of what I experienced toward the end of my PhD journey, but I needed all the support I could get. Had I not thought long and hard about the people I needed—yes, needed, not simply wanted—on my committee, I may not be writing this post today. One member in particular was my saving grace. She kept me grounded when everything was going awry. Please do not take this part of your journey lightly. Selecting your committee members is a big deal.
 
In coming months and years, I will continue blogging about my experiences as a nurse researcher. I recently started a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Wait, I know what you’re thinking. “School of Medicine? Why not the School of Nursing?” These and many other questions will be answered in coming blog posts. I hope you enjoyed following me as I worked toward my PhD, and I hope you will continue to journey with me through my postdoctoral fellowship and into my first job in academia … or the nonprofit sector … or government. There are so many options to choose from. But we’ll discuss that in a future blog post as I continue to take hold of my dreams.
 
Tiffany M. Montgomery, PhD, RNC-OB, C-EFM, a women’s health nurse since 2005, initially worked as a labor and delivery nurse before broadening her focus to obstetrics and gynecology. In June 2016, she moved east to pursue postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. She is originally from Long Beach, California, USA.
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