August 27, 2004

Nursing students have lots of company as enrollment grows

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New nursing students Missy Robinson, left, and Reneé Collins enjoy a picnic on campus Monday, during the school’s orientation. Photo by Mary Donaldson

Nursing students have lots of company as enrollment grows

Mary Sanford Hay, left, an Acute Care specialty student, and Emily Vogle, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner specialty student, chat during Monday’s picnic. Photo by Mary Donaldson

Mary Sanford Hay, left, an Acute Care specialty student, and Emily Vogle, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner specialty student, chat during Monday’s picnic. Photo by Mary Donaldson

For the second year in a row, enrollment at the School of Nursing is up, increasing in key areas this year, as the school welcomed 283 students from diverse backgrounds during orientation on Monday.

Orientation began with a welcome from Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor and dean of the School of Nursing.

“Nurses carry much higher decision-making responsibility and accountability,” she said. “It’s a great club, and we welcome you. It’s an elite club. Only 10 percent of nurses in this country have a master’s degree and only 1 percent hold a doctorate.”

Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, was also on hand to greet the new students.

“You can’t find any part of work here at Vanderbilt that isn’t profoundly impacted by nurses,” Jacobson said. “There are very few professions outside of medicine and nursing that really can offer such compelling rewards for what you do.”

Chancellor Gordon Gee drew applause from the incoming students with his opening remarks.

“It’s wonderful to say, in the School of Nursing, welcome ladies and gentlemen,” Gee said.

He went on to praise the school and its leaders for their commitment to community service.

“This school of nursing is a center of conscience for all of us at this university. In fact, I would have to say that it acts as a center of conscience in Nashville,” he said.

The new students come to Vanderbilt from 37 different states, with 46 percent from outside of the state of Tennessee.

“This is an exceptionally bright class and they come from a high variety of academic backgrounds, from philosophy to psychology, music, biology, chemistry,” said Linda Norman, D.S.N., senior associate dean for Academics.

The School of Nursing has been successful in increasing enrollment in the areas of pre-specialty registered nurse’s (associate degree nurses), and new, direct-entry nurses (nurses who already earned their bachelor of science in nursing degree). Both of these courses of entry into the program at VUSN are areas where school officials were hoping for an increase in numbers. The number of men enrolled in the school also increased this year.

Nursing students can take advantage of some new areas of focus in the program this fall, including forensic nursing, palliative care, and nursing education. Students can take the courses in those focus areas for additional experience regardless of their specialty or chosen area of study.

There will also be a Clinical Nurse Leader course of study offered at VUSN for the first time. This is a new initiative that is being implemented in at least 50 pilot sites across the country in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The most growth in a specialty has been in the dual Adult Nurse Practitioner/Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Specialty.

“That’s an area that has sparked a great deal of interest. I think because people see a need for it given the demographics of our population, plus you get a dual certification,” Norman said.

The new students hail from a range of backgrounds and experiences — including the son of Holocaust survivors and a current member of the LifeFlight team.

Victor Czerkasij will be entering the pre-specialty “bridge” program at VUSN, as a student with no prior nursing experience. He has been working in a dermatologist’s office as a surgical assistant. Czerkasij chose the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty to be his area of focus once he’s completed prerequisite nursing courses.

“Two years ago, I decided to pursue a passion of working in the medical field. I was 40, going through a midlife crisis, and realized this was what I wanted to do,” he said.

Czerkasij grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His parents are immigrants of Kiev, Ukraine, where they survived the Holocaust in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Czerkasij spent a decade working as the dean of Admissions and Recruiting at Southern Adventist University, he’s an ordained minister, is an author of several books, and was recently seen on ABC television’s “Extreme Makeover” show as he witnessed his brother’s makeover.

Czerkasij now enjoys life on a small farm in Cleveland, Tenn., where he tends to goats, chickens, and about a dozen bee hives. He said he and his wife of 22 years, along with their two young boys, will find a way to manage being apart during the week while he is here on campus for classes.

“It’s a two-year program, we can survive that. I searched it out and through word of mouth, testimonials, and all of my research, Vanderbilt is the best school. The program is highly regarded and world renowned,” he said.

Michael Gooch, 27, will bring extensive nursing experience with him to the School of Nursing this fall. Gooch is a registered nurse and is currently working as a flight nurse with VUMC’s LifeFlight team. Prior to the position, he worked in the Adult Emergency Room at VUMC, where he continues to work a few extra shifts from time to time. He plans to study Acute Care nursing at VUSN.

“I started working in the ER and enjoyed it and now really enjoy the challenge of flying and complexity of some of our patients,” he said. “I am ready to expand my knowledge and better my skill and further advance in nursing.

Gooch said he’ll juggle continuing to work for LifeFlight while taking courses at the School of Nursing, and plans to stay on at VUMC once he has completed the nurse practitioner program. Down the road, he hopes to take advantage of the autonomy a nurse practitioner can experience.

“Ultimately, I want to work in an ER setting providing patient care, maybe in a rural setting where I am the only practitioner there. This will come with some experience and time,” Gooch said.

The new students join approximately 200 continuing students who returned to campus on Wednesday for a joint orientation program. Classes for all students began today.