Cultivating Skilled And Confident Nurses

In recent years, the Elmira College Nursing Program has added new, high-tech simulators and adjusted its technology to facilitate the remote learning required in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, no matter when Elmira College students attend the program, they walk away with the skills and confidence needed to excel in the workplace. According to Mary Grace Nichols '22 and Rachel McEvoy '14 that is thanks to the program's focus on critical thinking and clinical reasoning as well as a close-knit, supportive and professional faculty.

Mary Grace Nichols '22

For most of her life, Nichols knew she wanted to be a nurse. She toured several colleges, but as soon as she visited EC, saw the campus, reviewed the nursing school facilities and met the professors, she trusted this was the place for her.

"I looked at every other school possible but the nursing program here was like no other," she said.

As her graduation date gets closer, Nichols remains pleased with her choice.

Her time at EC has broadened her horizons and given her a new passion to pursue. When Nichols started at EC, she planned on being an emergency room or intensive care unit nurse. She had had a great Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) opportunity in high school that exposed her to clinical-like scenarios in those fields. However, after experiencing the pediatrics rotation at EC, she found a new passion--helping kids. Now, she would love to become a pediatrics or a newborn intensive care unit nurse.

Although her experience was interrupted somewhat by remote learning, the faculty created an online learning environment that worked. They had online simulations and studied from real-life case studies. At first, Nichols worried that she wouldn't be as prepared because she had to be remote for nearly a year due to the pandemic. But after she returned to campus and participated in clinicals, she put those fears to bed.

"This year showed me how much I actually know," she said. "Seeing all of these different cases in clinicals, I can see how much I learned over the past four years. I know I will be successful."

For Nichols, starting the clinical experience in her sophomore year was pivotal in developing key, basic nursing skills as well as professional skills such as communication. Added to that, she benefited from the guided simulations held in EC's simulation labs with its high-fidelity mannequins Hal, Victoria, and Andy. Her simulation team worked through intense scenarios and then watched their recordings and evaluated their performance, looking for ways to improve. Beyond technical skills, Nichols feels well-prepared to network and interview. In one course, she heard from industry professionals, including community nurses, about building a nursing resume and they conducted mock interviews specific to the types of roles she's interested in.

Overall, Elmira College's small class sizes, faculty-student relationships, and real-world applications drew Nichols to EC and has made her experience here life-changing.

Rachel McEvoy '14

Rachel McEvoy graduated from Elmira College in 2014. Since then, she has had an incredible career in the medical field--a career she credits to EC.

The first thing that drew McEvoy to EC was its beautiful campus. In addition to EC's beauty, she loved the small class sizes. When she attended a nursing open house the faculty greeted her with open arms and every student she spoke to was genuinely happy to be at EC. Even as a visitor, McEvoy could tell EC was a supportive family, making her decision to attend easy.

As a student in the nursing program, McEvoy liked the structure of the classes.

"Professors started with the basics and helped you work your way through to the very technical skills," she said. "The professors were approachable, diverse, knowledgeable, and always willing to help and offer advice."

And those relationships continued after she graduated.

After EC, it was not hard for McEvoy to find a job. She had developed the skills necessary to be a well-rounded nurse and stood out amongst other applicants. EC gave her three years of experience in the hospitals and McEvoy also held the position of care partner at a local medical facility through college. In all of her experiences, she was able and encouraged to network with professionals in the field which helped her on the job hunt.

Out of school, McEvoy worked as a nurse on a trauma unit for a few years before working at a community health agency, Comprehensive Interdisciplinary Developmental Services, Inc. (CIDS). In this position, she worked with low-income families throughout a pregnancy and then into the child's development until they turned two years old. This position required more than just healthcare. The team worked with families to enable them to give their children the best life possible and to reach their full potential.

McEvoy has enjoyed the variety available to her in the field.

"There are so many options for jobs in the nursing field and, as a nurse, you have opportunities to work in different settings," she said." Also, your specialization can always change."

That's the approach McEvoy took. She continued her schooling and became a nurse practitioner. And her path recently brought her back to Elmira College to serve as director of the Clarke Health Center.

She's excited to see the advancements in technology that help today's students. But she also feels strongly that it is equally important to focus on the basics.

"Do not underestimate the basics," she said. "Fundamentals are important."

Beyond that she recommends anyone interested in nursing to have a genuine care for patients, to be willing to learn and ask questions and to graciously take criticism.

Learn more about EC's nursing program and its focus on promoting critical thinking, clinical reasoning and a global-minded capacity for care among students. Also, read the story behind EC's latest addition to its family of high-fidelity mannequins in the recent edition of Campus Magazine.

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