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Nursing Alumni Panel Gives Sage Advice To Seniors  

Nursing Alumni PanelThe College of Nursing recently sponsored their first alumni panel of graduates from the B.S.N. program who have been working professionally in industry for a period of 2 to 3 years. The purpose of the event was to provide first-hand insight on what a student can expect when entering the many areas of the nursing profession. The evening successfully conveyed the highlights as well as the challenges of a career that requires immense dedication and skill well beyond that of a typical entry-level job. Colleen Carrington, D.N.P., clinical instructor for undergraduate nursing, began the event by stating, "We want you to be nursing leaders, much like this panel." She continued, "Graduation is the first day of lifelong learning, something everyone at this table will certainly verify."

Although the panel of seven women were given the opportunity to share their individually unique stories, they all agreed that while nursing is anything but easy, it is highly rewarding for the right individual. It also is a job that is unpredictable and tests one's ability to adapt to any given situation. Gina Pollara '15 entered the profession later after leaving the culinary industry. She told the room of graduating seniors how she had hoped that she would not be placed in the I.C.U. when beginning her first and current job at Saint Barnabas Medical Center - which is exactly where she started – and where she remains today. Emily Cleaver '15 followed this by recalling how she was at the center of two rapid responses during her first week.

Embracing responsibility in extreme situations is indeed a key factor in the growth process, and students were encouraged to always seek out learning opportunities. Megan Furlong '14 made it a point to let her supervisor know from the outset that she was always available to assist anywhere where it was needed. Paige Oberle '15 suggested that working with the sickest patients early on prepares a new nurse to handle most anything, a sentiment that was echoed by everyone on the panel.

Inevitably, medical professionals will encounter death as part of the job. However, even in these circumstances, the alumnae stressed that nurses are empowered to truly make a difference through the care that they provide to patients and their families. Cleaver recalled a former patient who has since passed away from colon cancer. Aside from leaving his family, he was distraught over the fact that he would no longer be able to attend a concert with his children to see his idol, Paul McCartney. With the assistance of Cleaver and her colleagues, arrangements were made through the American Cancer Society to have the man and his family attend the concert. The doctors granted a 24 hour discharge and he was transported to the arena's disability seating with all of the necessary equipment, including blood transfusions. When he returned, he thanked Cleaver and informed her that she had "completed his life." This is a lasting memory that Cleaver carries with her even on her most difficult days.

SHU Nursing Alumni, Panel for SeniorsProfessor Carrington emphasized that caring for the whole person at the highest level is a mission standard of the College of Nursing that should be carried forth for the entire career of those who graduate from it. At the end of the day, however, nurses are only human. So how do they cope with the stress, and what Cleaver termed "compassion fatigue" as one progresses in the profession for the long term? She encouraged "triaging your day," but the entire panel concurred with her that imagining that the patient is a loved one should never be forgotten when times are most difficult. Nurses are entrusted with higher levels of responsibilities now, and she added that the image of the older, grumpy nurse is fast being phased out. Simply put, Pollara states that "you shouldn't be a nurse if you're not nice." She continued, "Find common ground and connect with patients. Have patience with your patients." Oberle commented that co-workers are wonderful support systems in terms of shared experiences. She also noted that Saint Barnabas is one of a number of hospitals that provide counseling for their employees. Lisa Blomgren '15 advised to practice self-care: eat well, get rest and exercise.

Pollara further states, "You get recognition from patients, family, your nursing manager – and that really helps. You know you've made a difference and that brings a wonderful level of reassurance." Carrington adds, "Even if you make a difference with just one patient, it's enough to keep you going."

Taking that first step to beginning a career after graduation was a topic throughout the discussion, and keeping the resume accurate and updated is paramount to getting the initial interview. All on the panel repeatedly stressed the importance of connections in navigating the job market; as with any industry, who you know can play a role in how quickly the next opportunity is found. Build relationships with fellow students, clinical supervisors, internship sites and stay in contact. Finally, continually expand knowledge and get additional certifications. It helps your patients and makes you more marketable. With today's healthcare system allowing nurses to assume greater responsibility and take on expanded roles as practitioners and administrators, obtaining an advanced degree is also an option. Blomgren, Oberle and Natalia Davie '15 will all begin M.S.N. Nurse Practitioner programs at Seton Hall in Fall 2018.

The panel ended the discussion by imparting some closing observations and words of wisdom. Pollara told the gathering of seniors that they should expect to start by working nights. Days are earned, yet can be more challenging as a result of additional people around you, including families and doctors. Practice good time management. Finally, Cleaver stressed that "you are never going to know everything. Go with your best judgment and instincts." Shannon Kiley '16 followed this by assuring everyone in the room that "you know more than you think."

Furlong echoed a sentiment that many who have graduated from Seton Hall's College of Nursing have expressed – that you can do anything with this nursing degree. As Carrington stated, "Nursing takes you where it wants you to be."

Lindsay Cosgrave, a second degree B.S.N. senior, was grateful she took the time to attend the session and thought that the emphasis on making connections and going outside the comfort zone to take on the sickest patients early on made an impact on how she would plan her next steps. However, she stated that it was the program itself that has made her a stronger nurse in the end.

Categories: Health and Medicine

For more information, please contact:

  • Michael Giorgio
  • (973) 275-4953
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