Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing

nursing students“On campus, you only see nursing majors out before sunrise,” says Erin Hogan. By early morning, she and Kalen Wilson—both juniors in the Saint Mary’s nursing program—are hours into their shift at the Family Birthplace of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center.

It’s not their first hands-on experience as student nurses. Since sophomore year, Erin and Kalen have done clinical work in varied settings, supervised by Saint Mary’s nursing instructors.

Their first assignment was at nearby Saint Mary’s Convent, where they utilized their nursing skills with retired Sisters of the Holy Cross. “They sent us over to the Convent to warm us up,” laughs Erin. “But it was neat because the Sisters really enjoy seeing students. Whether we were taking their blood pressure or listening to their hearts, they were just so excited to have us there.”

As juniors, Erin and Kalen observed professional nurses in hospital pediatric and oncology units and had responsibility for patient care. Erin found oncology work difficult, but worthwhile. “You sometimes get to care for people who are at the end of their lives. It’s a gift that they share that time with you.”

Now, they shadow labor and delivery nurses and assist with tasks under the nurses’ supervision. They’ve watched babies come into the world, taken the vital signs of tiny newborns, and even taught new moms how to breastfeed.

As seniors, Erin and Kalen will continue caring for patients two full days each week. They’ll finish their coursework—including a project to demonstrate advanced writing proficiency—and take a comprehensive exam that simulates the NCLEX-RN nursing licensure exams.

“It’s a lot. It’s a big load,” says Kalen of the nursing curriculum. But thanks to small classes and one-on-one attention from faculty, she feels good about her choice. “I had a couple different options of where to go. But I felt like I was going to get the best education at Saint Mary’s.”

Given the nationwide demand for nurses, Saint Mary’s graduates can expect to find good jobs. Erin plans to pursue pediatric nursing in the Chicago area, and Kalen will start her career in Indianapolis.

Nursing is challenging, but with hands-on preparation, Erin says, “you know this is what you want to do. This is where your heart is—so you do it.”