Oct 28, 2008

Major Focus: Nursing

by Amanda Baker

 EDITOR’S NOTE: This article marks the beginning of a series called Major Focus. We will interview students to highlight different aspects of their undergraduate majors and also look at how people from those majors have succeeded after college. This week we will be covering the nursing major.

Excellence has always been a priority for the nursing program at Liberty University. Even before incoming students begin classes, rumors of the difficulty level start to fly, many of which end up becoming reality. However, the nursing field is more than just rigorous academics and extensive clinical hours; other qualifiers are involved.

Asst. Professor of nursing Mary Lynn Clarke advised, “Pray and seek God’s will. Ask yourself, ‘Do I truly have a heart for those who are suffering?’ We view nursing as a ministry. Also ask yourself if you are willing to study and work hard.”
Much work is required from new students to even qualify for application into the nursing program, which occurs at the end of freshman year.

“(My freshman year) I was nervous about getting in the program because it is so competitive. I had to work real hard and commit myself to my classes. Having friends in the same situation totally helped because they were great study buddies,” sophomore Amanda Rine said.

If students are accepted into the nursing program, they begin specific nursing classes their sophomore year. Classes include body assessments and procedures, such as how to give IVs and put in catheters. Students also study obstetrics, pediatrics and pharmacology, which is learning about drugs and how they affect people.

Because nursing is so involved, a larger class load is required to keep up with the program.

“I take an average of 17 hours a semester, and last semester I studied about 20 hours a week. As a sophomore, a lot of those hours are spent in the lab. I spend about thr

ee hours a week practicing for check-offs, which are basically tests on different systems of the body. We also learn how to assess patients,” sophomore Christy Homer said.

The higher students progress in the program, the more clinical hours they are able to fulfill. Clinical hours are the equivalent of the practicum hours that are required for other majors.

“As (students) progress their clinical workload, prep work and actual clinical hours increase dramatically. Our nursing students have heavy written work on Thursday evenings prior to the hospital clinical experiences on Fridays,” said Clarke.

The written-work assignments are patient profiles. Students go into the hospital the day before and get all the history about a patient, including family, social and medical backgrounds. They also need to get a write-up of all the patient’s medications, past diagnosis and current diagnosis so the doctor can figure out how to treat the patient, according to junior Courtney Clark.

“The first time you write up a profile, it usually takes about eight to 10 hours, but once you get it down, it only takes three to four hours,” she said.

Students fulfill clinical hours at local hospitals and get the chance to connect with real patients. They participate in clinicals at Lynchburg General Hospital (LGH) and Virginia Baptist Hospital.

Many nursing graduates enter the profession with approximately 200 hours of nursing experience, according to the nursing home page.

During clinicals, students are given an opportunity to work outside of the classroom alongside registered nurses, which gives the students a guided perspective on the duties of a nurse.

“We are expected to go to clinical at the hospital and check in with the nurse that we work with. We work with patients, change dressings and IVs, give them their (medication), help them go to the bathroom, change diapers and bathe them,” Jones said.
The nursing program fosters a feeling of community among the students through mentorship and award ceremonies. Unofficial study groups also form among students who have similar classes and assignments.

“Upper-level nursing students help lower-level students study for pathophysiology and check-offs, which are really important, because if you don’t pass, you are put on probation. So having input from older students is definitely helpful,” Homer said.

A pinning ceremony is held for the sophomore and junior classes every year to celebrate their achievements. At this year’s ceremony on Sept. 30, Rich Lyford, a Liberty nursing graduate, offered encouragement to those being honored.

“Nursing really is a ministry. Study hard, because it is an amazing ride,” he said.

After college, many career paths are available to students who complete the nursing program. Graduates have gone on to be employed at Duke University Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital, Hershey Medical Center, Baylor Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital. Ninety-nine percent have experienced job placement immediately after graduating, according to the nursing home page.

For more information about the Liberty Nursing Department, contact Dr. Dea Britt by calling (434) 582-2519 or by e-mailing her at dbritt@liberty.edu.


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