York College Nursing Program Celebrates 40 Years of Innovative Care
While a lot has changed in four decades, the first class to graduate in 1981 says nursing is still about helping people.
Ed Bukowski ’81 had one thing on his mind as a Nursing student: Do well and get on with the rest of his life. At the time, being one of two men in a brand-new Nursing program at York College of Pennsylvania didn’t mean much unless he graduated and went on to pursue his goals.
“I was too young to realize what it meant to be one of the firsts,” he says today from his home in Pittsburgh. “Now, I think it was pretty neat. I know it meant something.”
As the Nursing program celebrates 40 years since its first class graduated, Bukowski and others are looking back on their time at York College, their memorable careers, and wishing the next class the best as they embark on their own journeys.
‘A career I’m proud of’
After serving four years as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman, Bukowski had a lot of experience treating routine illnesses, often without the supervision of a physician. He felt he had a lot of the basic concepts down, but he knew in his heart he still had a lot to learn. A friend in the Navy pointed him in the direction of York College.
Upon graduation, he returned to Pittsburgh, where he worked for what is now UPMC St. Margaret. Eventually, he would become certified in rehabilitation nursing and later work for Highmark. Although he retired in 2015, he’s been working on quality-of-care reviews for Highmark.
When he looks back on his time at York College, he knows it was the foundation he needed to pursue his career goals. “I wouldn’t have been able to achieve anything else if I didn’t have that degree as a launching point,” Bukowski says. “It set me up for a career I’m proud of.”
Returning to York College
Patty (Quackenbush) Myers ’81 thought she would be a music teacher until a career shadowing experience in high school introduced her to the field of nursing. It was a high school guidance counselor who saw Myers’s early interest and mentioned York College’s new Nursing program.
“I do remember having a moment where I wondered, ‘Do they really have everything planned out yet?’” she says. “But, when we got here, there were so many faculty members with years of experience and knowledge about the field. They knew exactly what they were doing.”
She met her husband, Bruce Myers ’81, a Criminal Justice major who was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, at York College. The two would spend the early years of their marriage traveling as part of Bruce’s service in the Army. When they returned to Pennsylvania, she brought back years of medical-surgical experience that landed her a job in the Intensive Care Unit.
When Myers had her second child, she decided she needed to find a day-shift job and returned to her first love of community nursing, which she was first exposed to in clinical rotations. At the York Health Corporation, now known as Family First Health, she worked in patient education and family dynamics. While she worked in that role for about 17 years, she decided to pursue her school nurse certification and later found an opportunity to work part-time in the lab at York College while completing that program.
What started as part-time work in 2005 turned into a full-time position in 2010, where Myers now works as the Nursing Lab Coordinator at York College. Since she’s been back at the College, she’s seen two curriculum changes and has watched clinical sequences evolve.
“The College has been very responsive to what students need to graduate and be successful in their careers,” she says. “The variety of experiences I had as a student in a new program are still incorporated into the education of new nurses today. That makes all the difference.”
Leaving a mark
Dana (Brubaker) Cotton ’81 can look back fondly on the mark she left as a student in a new program. The Lancaster County native, who says she felt like a trailblazer in the newly formed major, had a talent for illustrations. She started lending her abilities to help the Student Nurses Association sell T-shirts for a fundraiser. Later, she would create the pin for the Nursing program.
“When possible, faculty would bounce options off students, which allowed us to have some input in the program,” she says. That not only included the Nursing pin, but the uniforms, the student nurse cap, and the addition of a summer course to give students operating room experience.
Cotton’s career took her from working for the Navy Nurse Corps to National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Occupational Health, to the Office of the Attending Physician on Capitol Hill. She was one of 12 civilian nurses working with a team of five Navy internal medicine doctors and a team of Navy corpsmen at the U.S. Capitol. Finally, she worked with the Supreme Court's Health Services Office before her retirement in December 2019.
Looking back on how far the Nursing program has come, she’s excited to see the clinical lab has joined the “modern age of technology.” Even with all of the advancements and changes to maintain a modern curriculum and advanced learning experience, the heart of nursing is the same, she says.
“It’s an honor to be able to take care of people when they need you most,” Cotton says. “Choosing a career in nursing is choosing a career of service.”