8 Questions with the Dean of the Froelich School of Nursing
Q1. Why should someone consider studying nursing in 2021?
I truly believe nursing is one of the best professions you can choose today. There is so much you can do with a nursing degree. And right now, you can see day after day that nurses are an essential part of the workforce keeping patients alive and trying to manage the COVID-19 pandemic under very difficult circumstances.
The need for nurses is continuing to grow, and our country will soon see a massive nursing shortage because the baby boomers are about to retire. And, of course, we don’t know what impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the workforce: Will it scare people away from nursing, which it shouldn’t, or will it inspire more potential nurses to pursue the profession so they can get out and provide patient care?
Q2. Assumption’s nursing program was just launched in 2019. Why is that a plus for students?
In 2023, the year Assumption’s first cohort graduates, the national licensing exam—NCLEX-RN Examination, or NCLEX—is changing significantly. Data has shown that 70% of new nurses are making errors in their first year of practice, and many of these errors can be traced back to poor clinical judgment. Therefore, the Next Generation NCLEX or NCLEX-NextGen exam will measure clinical reasoning and clinical judgment in new grads. A benefit of developing a new program during this time is that I’ve been able to tailor our nursing curriculum to form nurses with clinical reasoning and judgment using the types of questions and scenarios that will be encountered on the licensing exam.
Remember, you can’t practice nursing without a license, and you can’t get a registered nurse license until you pass the licensing exam. So, nursing applicants need to be savvy about asking if the program they are applying to is equipped to prepare them for the Next Generation NCLEX.
Q3. How have you tailored your curriculum to address the greatest needs in the workforce?
Every nursing program is going to teach its students nursing skills. Students will have access to labs, high-fidelity mannequins, and hands-on experience through clinicals. What’s unique about Assumption’s program is that the overarching goal of our curriculum is to educate our students as thinkers with clinical judgment; you will learn to think like a nurse.
Our curriculum philosophy is based on Linda Caputi’s model to teach students how to think like a nurse. And this is not just a one-time course or one-time lecture. It’s a philosophy and approach to teaching that is deliberate, thoughtful, and comprehensive. As I just mentioned, clinical judgment ability will be the focus of the new NCLEX. Our entire program, including the design of our new building, has been thoughtfully developed to ensure our students are well prepared to critically assess the scenarios they will encounter in the field.
Q4. What can students expect from the state-of-the-art Health Sciences building?
The Health Sciences building is a modern, light-filled facility with huge windows and plenty of areas to study and do group work. Nursing students will have four dedicated classrooms that facilitate collaborative work and active learning. And they will learn through hands-on practice in our top-of-the-line Clinical Learning Suite.
The Clinical Learning Suite has been specifically designed to move students through each stage of the learning process. You will first begin to perform skills with excellent technique and with peer and faculty feedback. You will then apply your skills and knowledge in case study work. For example, your task may be to remove an IV. While this may be a simple skill you’ve learned, you will also be able to explain your knowledge beyond the IV’s physical removal—what the patient’s fluid intake has been, what their blood levels are, what the IV site looks like, etc.
You will then move on to the high-fidelity simulation rooms where you will perform bedside care related to the patient case. As you engage in highly realistic learning experiences, video and audio recordings capture your work, which enables debriefing, a process that allows the student to dissect and understand their thinking and ways to improve when presented a similar case in the future.
Q5. What are some aspects of the program that are unique to Assumption?
Assumption nurses are prepared, in accordance with the principles of Catholic healthcare ethics, to care for, serve, and promote the health of society. Social justice and health promotion are central tenets of each nursing course offered. We’ve also combined maternal and women’s health and pediatrics into a Family Health course, which covers everything from pre-pregnancy women’s health, men’s health, birth, and adolescence to adulthood and geriatrics. It also covers intergenerational issues that many families face, with adults taking care of not only their children but also their elderly parents, often under one roof.
Furthermore, we’ve incorporated mental health through your entire clinical education. Nurses are holistic caregivers who care for the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual domains of the individual. Yet, in our education system, we rarely care for all of those aspects in one acute setting. When treating a patient, it’s important to understand everything that may be going on with them, including their mental health. That’s why we don’t isolate this clinical experience to just one rotation. In every clinical course, a focus will be on the mental health of that specific population. You will consider how all patients’ mental health may be affecting them, regardless of their reason for being admitted.
Q6. How are clinicals at Assumption unique?
We’re excited to have a model of consecutive clinical days. What that means is that you may work a full day on Thursday, go home, manage your school work and social life, and then get up and go to clinical the next day. This way, instead of getting only a snapshot of a patient during the hours you’re in clinical, you’ll be able to go back and see what happened with that patient in the 15 hours you weren’t there.
We focus a lot on the continuum of patient care, so some of your clinical experiences will be varied and you will get a full view of the patient’s experience, from prior to their admittance into the hospital through to when they’re discharged from the hospital. A student’s assignment may be on the oncology floor, but they will accompany the patient to the infusion center to understand the experience of a patient receiving chemotherapy, for example.
Q7. Do nursing students have dedicated housing on campus?
I made a conscious decision not to place nursing students in separate housing, for the same reason I didn’t want the nursing students to all be in the same biology lab or same biology course; I wanted the students integrated with everybody else on campus.
You’re going to find that everyone calls you a nursing student, but you’re an Assumption student first and foremost. You’re going to have plenty of time to be with your nursing peers. It’s important to make friends outside of the nursing program.
Q8. Nursing school is hard! What kind of support system do nursing students have?
My motto is we are one big family. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s absolutely true here. During COVID, we’ve held Zoom meetings with our nursing students every other week to check in and help out in any way we can.
Everyone will have a faculty advisor and a nursing faculty advisor from day one. Your advisors will work with you throughout your program of study. But, transitioning to college can be difficult, so we have a Professional Practice Coordinator to provide an extra layer of support for nursing students. Relationships, homesickness, the stress of the workload, and on top of that, the high expectations we have of our nursing students—all of that requires this extra support we are committed to providing.
Have additional questions about nursing at Assumption?
Contact Rylee Benzing-Plourde, undergraduate admissions counselor and nursing program liaison, to get the answers!
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