August 29, 2008

Journey begins for Nursing School students

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School of Nursing students Nneka Jon-Ubabuco, left, and Javina Smith eat lunch outside the school on a break between orientation activities on the first day of class. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Journey begins for Nursing School students

VUSN Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., speaks to the incoming class. (photo by Susan Urmy)

VUSN Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., speaks to the incoming class. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing welcomed its 100th incoming class this week — 385 students who participated in orientation and the start of the fall semester during the School's Centennial year.

“You have made a great choice to pursue nursing,” said VUSN Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., greeting the new students. “This is the first day of your journey that will focus on education, practice and research. We value your time and your commitment, and want you to get the most out of your nursing education at Vanderbilt.”

The incoming class includes 140 non-nurses who are participating in VUSN's Bridge program to earn their M.S.N.; 197 students with B.S.N. degrees who are pursuing M.S.N. degrees; 14 post-master's students; five Ph.D. students and 34 Doctor of Nursing Practice students. The School awarded full tuition scholarships to Susan Ecklin (Harold Stirling Vanderbilt Scholarship), Kristin Cummins (Dean's Honor Scholarship) and Susannah Hahn (C.W. Kempkau Honor Scholarship). Each student has come to the school with different stories to tell and different goals in mind.

New to VUSN, but a well-recognized player on Vanderbilt University's women's basketball team, is Christina Wirth. She is a talented athlete who will be playing on the court and attending classes to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Wirth grew up in Mesa, Ariz., as the second of six children and always enjoyed being around her siblings and other neighborhood kids. She joined Vanderbilt as a Human Organization and Development student at Peabody, and has also done volunteer work at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

She originally considered medical school but decided on the nurse practitioner route because it allowed more flexibility and would get her practicing sooner. She draws comparisons between performing on a basketball court and working on a health care team.

“It's about being a part of something bigger than you. You want to give your best and work together for amazing results,” said Wirth.

Jennifer Crichton is a registered nurse who has worked at VMC's Burn Unit for nearly five years. She is one of six nurses from the Burn Unit who are new or continuing the VUSN program.

Crichton is pursuing the acute care/family nurse practitioner specialty because she believes the role of nurse practitioners will grow in the future.

“I see how vital the nurse practitioner role is in the Burn Unit and how necessary it will become in the future with a larger patient population and wider variety of patient needs,” said Crichton.

She can see herself eventually working in a rural community hospital in the emergency department, handling a broad spectrum of patients.

“I'm excited about furthering my study of nursing and changing my scope of practice to include managing patients,” she said.

Leigh Lawrence has been a registered nurse for 10 years. Her career has included working as a travel nurse in seven different states, at Children's Hospital for three years and, most recently, in a research position that has taken her across the country.

While she has enjoyed the role of bedside nurse, she was encouraged to pursue her master's in the science of nursing by nurse practitioners who had also gone through the Vanderbilt program.

“I've got a lot of great experience, but am ready to give more,” said Lawrence, who is in the pediatric nurse practitioner program. “As a nurse practitioner, you have to be more responsible for yourself, and I can do that.”

The Dexter, Miss., native relocated to Nashville five years ago. In addition to learning she was accepted in the VUSN program this summer, Lawrence and her husband are expecting their first child next March.