University of South Florida


Dr. Rebecca Koerner

Childhood Dreamer To Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Spotlighting Alumna Rebecca Koerner

Choosing a career path can be complicated. Early on in life, children are taught to explore their options. For some, dream jobs evolve. Others remain steadfast in their goals, as was the case for Rebecca Koerner, a pediatric nurse practitioner and three-time USF College of Nursing alumna.

“I decided to become a pediatric nurse at a very young age,” recalls Koerner. “My mom was a neonatal nurse practitioner. I remember going into her office one ‘Take Your Daughter To Work Day.’ I watched her assess a patient, and as she was doing it, the baby reached up and grasped their fingers around her hand. I knew in that moment, that is exactly what I wanted to do.”

After that experience, Koerner dedicated her time to pursuing that dream. She started by making decorations for the neonatal unit. As she grew older, she took on more responsibilities like becoming a cuddler in the NICU.

Rebecca Koerner poses with her undergraduate cohort.

By the time she was an undergraduate student at the University of South Florida College of Nursing, she had already started volunteering in the NICU. She joined a student organization that planned baby showers and crafted nameplates for parents of babies in the NICU. 

After graduating with her BSN, Koerner achieved her dream of becoming a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit. There, she took care of chronic, complex patients. She quickly concluded that she wanted to aid in their care beyond their stay in the NICU.

“I really wanted to care for these children throughout their life span because a lot of them have long-term neurodevelopmental adverse outcomes. So, by coming back and pursuing my pediatric nurse practitioner degree I could follow these kids throughout their life and improve their long-term outcomes,” says Koerner. 

For Koerner, returning to the USF College of Nursing was an easy choice. Ranked #1 among public Florida institutions, the University of South Florida offers Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees with various concentrations, including pediatric primary care nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner.

The full-time program took her five semesters to complete. While in the program, she had hands-on practice with simulations, took courses specific to pediatric care, and completed approximately 180 clinical hours a semester.

Rebecca Koerner asseses a simulation manikin.

“One of my favorite things about the program was the various clinical experiences I had. To see the different types of settings that I could provide care for patients, the different conditions, and even the experiences of my patients was very valuable.” shares Koerner. “I remember one time when a family couldn’t pay for their visit. So, they brought in chicken eggs for the staff. They couldn’t afford it but owned a farm and that is what they were able to bring. It was eye-opening.”

She attributes experiences such as those to her involvement in the USF MSN program. Now, after becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner, she’s helping educate future nurse leaders as an adjunct faculty in the pediatric primary care program.

“Now that I’ve graduated, one of the things I like to do is try to instill confidence in the students. Knowing that they can do it, and that I am somebody who believes in them, I think is an important part of my role here at USF.”

The USF College of Nursing is currently accepting applications for our MSN and DNP programs. To learn more visit

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