NURSING ALONG A CAREER CHANGE
Words by Carole Walker / Photograph by John Emerson
It’s May 2011. A special education teacher from South Jersey, a stay-at-home mom from Central Jersey who is also a yoga instructor, and a mortgage banker from North Jersey are three of the 14 students beginning UMDNJ-School of Nursing’s new part-time Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program in Newark. Over the next 30 consecutive months, they will take classes together every Thursday evening and every Saturday morning, about 21 hours per week, in order to complete the coursework that will prepare them to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. All are college graduates, since this is a second degree program.
Physter Andrews, a 28-year-old special education teacher from Clementon, teaches autistic children in Princeton. His goal is to combine his current profession with becoming a family nurse practitioner. “This part-time program works really well for me,” he says. So, twice a week Andrews travels more than an hour up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark to attend classes. “I especially like the fact that my class is small, diverse, and very close-knit. We help each other a lot. Just as important, the instructors are great.”
For Paula Pablo, married and the mother of young children, time is of the essence. The Metuchen resident’s first degree is in bilingual elementary education, but health care has always interested her. “When I heard about this part-time bachelor’s degree program, I made a quick decision to apply. The evening and Saturday schedule allows me the flexibility I need,” she explains. Pablo immediately made plans to complete the prerequisites, which include chemistry with lab, human anatomy and physiology 1 and 2 with lab, microbiology with lab, psychology, sociology, and statistics.
Now, several months into the program, Pablo is impressed with the instructors. “I particularly like the nursing informatics and health promotion courses because both embody the science of nursing and promote the use of evidence-based practices, which will enable me to provide the highest quality of care,” she says.
“The program combines intense nursing theory and clinical courses,” says Shelise Valentine, MSN, RN, instructor of prelicensure programs at the School of Nursing. “Students who are thinking of this program need a prerequisite core of basic science, general education, and basic behavioral and social sciences courses, in order to satisfy the requirements for a baccalaureate in nursing degree.”
According to Denise Tate, EdD, APN, assistant dean and assistant professor of prelicensure programs, students take three courses during their first semester and two courses each of the following semesters.These include classroom instruction such as pathophysiology, pharmacology, comprehensive health assessment, health informatics, policy and politics in health care systems, and nursing leadership and management, and clinical courses such as mental health nursing, gerontological nursing, adult health nursing, pediatric nursing, women’s health and newborn nursing, and community health nursing.
“We are happy to be able to offer this slower paced evening program that provides access to a baccalaureate nursing education to students, who because of personal or financial reasons, cannot take advantage of the full-time accelerated nursing program,” says Tate.
John Palumbo, a sales manager for a mortgage company in Englewood Cliffs, was originally accepted into UMDNJ’s full-time nursing program, but decided it would not be feasible for him given his work demands. The part-time program sounded doable.
He has been working in sales for the past nine years. “Watching the real estate market crash forced me to reconsider my career,” says the Wayne resident. “I’ve always wanted to continue my education, but in the medical field.”
Palumbo’s ultimate goal is to become a nurse anesthetist. “Once I finish this program, I intend to apply for work in an ICU to get the necessary critical care experience to eventually apply for the Master’s level nurse anesthesia program.” He says some of the classes are intense. “Anyone who expects to go into nursing and breeze their way through school is in for a surprise. The hardest thing for me is to juggle a full-time job, school and my other commitments. ”
He also likes the small class size, which allows him to get to know all of the other students and also to work closely with the professors. “The teachers are knowledgeable and fair when it comes to grading. They are sensitive to the fact that some of us have full-time jobs and families, and they do what they can to help us through,” he says. “I’ve already learned so much in such a short period of time. I really like working with patients and I’m excited about reaching the finish line.”
Palumbo says that he thought nursing was a predominantly female profession, “but going through the program and being in the hospital has made me realize there are a lot of men going into the field, and I’m not viewed differently because I’m a male. Nursing opens up so many different paths for many different people.”