Hands-On Experience Prepares York College Nursing Students for Real-Life Challenges
York College graduates Elizabeth “Liz” Shreve ’21 and Robert Foster ’20 say their clinical and patient care experience gave them a leg up and bolstered their confidence as new nurses.
Elizabeth “Liz” Shreve ’21 was terrified. It was her first day at her first job out of college. She was no longer a student, intern, or shadow. She was a nurse in the UPMC Harrisburg Emergency Department in the middle of a pandemic. As she went through the new employee orientation and training, a new feeling emerged from her fear: confidence.
She’d already learned about topics they were covering, like advanced cardiac life support. The clinical experiences she’d had through the York College of Pennsylvania Nursing program gave her a leg up compared to her peers. “Once I saw it was similar to experiences I’ve had before, I said, ‘Okay, I can do this,’ ” she says. “I’ve been prepared for this.”
With an emphasis on clinical experiences, simulations, opportunities to hone hands-on skills, and a new focus on resilience and self-care, York College of Pennsylvania’s Nursing program prepares graduates to confidently step out of the classroom and into the real world.
Graduating during a pandemic
Robert Foster ’20 saw the impact of COVID-19 first-hand as a nurse extern at Johns Hopkins Adult Emergency Department. “You couldn’t really be prepared for what COVID brought,” he says.
Foster didn’t get to have an in-person graduation, but the Nursing professors made sure that, despite the pandemic, he and his classmates got the critical clinical hours and varied clinical experience that sets York College’s program apart.
That experience helped shape him into a leader among peers. A year after graduating, he’s now an ER nurse and clinical instructor. “I felt very confident,” he says. “Clinically, I just had more experience.”
Base knowledge and nursing skills are important, but learning how to interact with patients is essential to a nurse’s success—and that’s developed through experience.
“We had a lot of clinical hours, so I was around patients all the time,” he says. “We were actually in the hospitals interacting with nurses and patients and the care team.”
Adapting to a new reality
The pandemic changed many aspects of college life, but for Nursing students, the impact goes well beyond temporarily learning on Zoom. Their chosen profession looks different now than it did just a few years ago, and professors in York College’s Nursing program are quickly adapting to make sure their students are ready.
When the pandemic temporarily halted in-person learning, professors quickly pivoted. “They kept us engaged. Learning through online clinicals, online simulations, and in-depth case studies prepared you for the real world, as well,” Shreve says. “They handled it well.”
The program’s emphasis remains on clinical experience, simulations, and an end-of-program immersion experience, but they’ve revamped curriculum to increase the amount of medical/surgical nursing, allowing students greater opportunity for honing hands-on skills and management of complex patients, says Associate Professor Carrie Pucino. “COVID will slowly fade from the news and public view,” she says, “but healthcare will be dealing with COVID much longer.”
Making a difference
Both Shreve and Foster were drawn to York College for its nursing school’s reputation, and they weren’t disappointed. “I’m so thankful for my professors at York College and how supportive they are,” Foster says. “If I had to go to nursing school again, I would definitely choose York and I would definitely recommend it to any Nursing major.”
The size and scope of York College’s program allowed Shreve to thrive. “It’s large enough to offer a wide variety of valuable clinical experiences yet small enough for students and faculty to work closely together,” Pucino says. “It was like a little family,” Shreve adds.
Despite the challenges of entering the healthcare field during a pandemic, both recent York College graduates can’t imagine doing anything else.
Shreve was first drawn to nursing when her grandmother was in the hospital. She was so impressed with the nurses that she knew she wanted to be just like them. Now her grandmother tells her how proud she is of her every day—that she was born to do this.
“Being able to impact someone’s life for even just a little bit of time while they’re in the emergency department,” Shreve says, “I just love that I’m able to help and do that.”
Foster agrees. “Even though it’s stressful as heck, I’m so thankful I got into nursing,” he says. “If I can make a positive impact on one person, that’s what I do it for.”