NEWBURGH – Mount Saint Mary College nursing graduates and students, like Chris Bernadino of Montgomery, enjoy utilizing their medical skills in hospitals throughout the tri-state area.
Bernadino, a junior, spends about 10 hours a week at Orange Regional Medical Center in Middletown, where he cares for a new patient every shift. Bernadino and about 40 of his classmates take vital statistics, blood samples and administer medication, among a host of other responsibilities.
It confirms what Bernadino already knew.
"This is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, without a doubt. When clinical is done at 5 o’clock I don’t want to go home," said Bernadino. "Taking care of people is the best way to get them on track to having happy, holistic, rich lives."
Rebecca Crookston of Branford, Conn., said her experience at ORMC has been valuable and exciting. It allowed her to explore many aspects of nursing, and get a feel for what she might want to focus on later in her career.
"I love the interaction I get to have with patients and knowing that I did something to help them," she said, adding, "The number one thing we do is apply our knowledge."
At Mount Saint Mary College, sophomore nursing students don scrubs and stethoscopes, and begin their applied learning.
Junior year marks the first time Mount students administer medication to patients, something that Amy Schaefer of Suffolk, NY. said can be challenging.
"When you give a medication, you need to understand the side effects and complications," she said. "Some medications can lead to very quick or very dangerous side effects."
Repeating the procedure gave her confidence, turning a former source of stress into a success. "The nursing program definitely is not easy. You have to want this. It’s not something that’s handed to you," she said. "But once you get it, it’s very fulfilling."
Amanda Rolfs of Westwood, NJ, said she appreciates that the Mount requires hands-on experience for nursing students in sophomore year, two semesters earlier than other colleges.
"That helped a lot getting ready for what I’m doing now in the hospital," she said. "Because I had the background, it wasn’t as scary going into [ORMC]. I feel so much more independent because I feel comfortable with what I’m doing."
Bernadino, Rolfs, Crookston and Schaefer agree that the Mount instilled in them the skills to be successful. The students cited instructors like Teresa Hurley, Jeanne Roth, Pricilla Sagar and Ann Corcoran as pivotal in their evolution as nurses.
"Our professors prepared us for everything that we’ve come across, and for a lot of things that they didn’t think we’d have to deal with," Bernadino said. "They love what they do and it makes us more passionate."
Amanda Dally of Middletown described nursing professor Andrea Ackerman as "inspirational. To be like her as a nurse one day would be ideal for any of us."
At Mount Saint Mary College, more than 40 percent of first year students aim for health professions. Located just 60 miles north of New York City in Newburgh, NY, the college is ranked a Top-Tier Regional University (North) by U.S. News & World Report.
Working with 30-40 hospitals, the Mount offers the only nationally accredited four-year nursing degree program in the mid-Hudson Valley and boasts a high NCLEX-RN passage rate that exceeds the state average.
Susan L. Davis went on to serve as president and CEO of Vassar Brothers Medical Center in the Hudson Valley, and then president and CEO at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., before her current Ascension Health leadership in New York/Connecticut and Gulf Coast/Florida.
In addition, top Washington officials are reading and learning from experiences in the book "Nurses in War: Voices from Iraq and Afghanistan," written by Mount nursing graduates Elizabeth Scannell-Desch, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and her sister, Mary Ellen Doherty.
Bernadino and Crookston would like to follow in the footsteps of their professors and teach nursing. Schaefer wants to be an emergency room nurse. Rolfs is interested in doing maternity work. As for Dally, "You can almost do anything with a nursing degree," she emphasized. "I’m confident."
Claudine Castano, a senior who splits her time between Harlem and the City of Newburgh, spent the second half of the fall 2012 semester helping fellow students at the Mount’s office of health services.
"In community health nursing, the things that are most focused on are education and patient teaching," she said. "I think that’s great because I’ve learned so much about how to speak with and educate people. It was really great to directly improve their lives."
In October, Castano and about 70 classmates participated in a week-long flu shot clinic at West Point. In the span of five days, they vaccinated 4,647 cadets, staff and their families. Castano and her group administered nearly 1,500 vaccinations in a single day.
"It was one of the high points of the semester," she said. "I saw that during a huge scale immunization, everything is like clockwork; everyone has a job and they do it well."
Patients in community nursing settings generally require more common forms of treatment than patients in hospitals. Mount students experience both settings. This semester, Castano has been able to care for more people, practice new situations, and build her nursing repertoire even further.
Alexia Sullivan had a similar experience. Sullivan’s fall 2012 semester clinical work with WillCare in Newburgh found the student aiding post-op and chronic patients in their homes.
"You had to use what was in your setting to better help the patients, instead of a hospital supplying it or ordering what you need with the snap of a finger," she said. With the real-world experience she gained through the Mount, "You get to see all the aspects of care."