The first group of students to graduate from WNMU with a traditional pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) will participate in a pinning ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, at 2 p.m. in Light Hall Auditorium.
Graduates include Vince Torres, Sarah Chaires, Jasmine Romero, Sean Kishbaugh, Amanda Pryor, Starr Ann Moon, Angelica Aguirre, Jerrika Lewis, Jacob Lenhardt and Dolores Escudero. All were inducted into the Southwest New Mexico Honor Society of Nursing in November.
“They are leaders in their chosen profession,” Assistant Professor of Nursing Alexis Harsh said.
These graduates are leading their field simply by enrolling in the BSN program. The Institute of Medicine wants to increase the number of nurses with BSN degrees to 80 percent by 2020.
“It’s a smarter decision to go into the bachelor’s program — from the academic and financial aid standpoints,” Chaires said.
WNMU uses the New Mexico Education Consortium (NMNEC) curriculum that prepares nurses across the state for positions in patient care.
“This is the most comprehensive undergrad degree. Almost all the courses are writing intensive,” Harsh said.
Instead of only learning how to treat symptoms, for example, the BSN students discuss a disease process. “Nursing school exams feature mainly application and analysis level questions. “They aren’t looking for answers that you could memorize the night before the test. What you learned the first day, you have to know the last day. That’s a big change from how most of us do school,” Harsh said.
Plus, there’s a focus on leadership in the BSN program. “We have classes that help develop us for jobs higher in the ranks,” Torres said.
The path to BSN was a natural fit for most members of this class.
Two of the BSN students had taken another class through Western, enjoyed the teachers and decided to apply for the nursing program. Many of the others choose to pursue a BSN because they have family members who are nurses.
“It was a calling. I was set to go to New Mexico Tech for mechanical engineering but ended up here,” Kishbaugh said.
All of the class members have their own areas interest. Torres has a passion for pediatrics; Chaires wants to work in a NICU; Romero hopes to be a nurse in maternal/child services; and Pryor likes case management and behavioral health.
The BSN students had clinicals at Gila Regional Medical Center, Fort Bayard Medical Center and Mimbres Memorial Hospital in Deming. Four of them did their capstone clinicals at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces. They got additional field experience at the WNMU Child Development Center, El Grito Headstart, Walgreens, and numerous health fairs.
“It was interesting to see us grow from tech to student nurse,” Chaires said. “When we started, we were terrified. By the end, we felt more comfortable.”
The practice the student nurses got in the community over five semesters was useful in softer ways, too. “If you want to work in this community, you can get to know a lot of area people and resources through clinical experiences. You can network, and when you’ve been around, they have more confidence and faith in you. All of us have worked for the hospital already, for example,” Romero said.
After graduation this fall, members of this first BSN cohort will study for the National Council Council Licensure Examination-RN (NCLEX) to receive their Registered Nurse license so they can practice as nurses.
They will be ready. “This class put in a lot of time,” Harsh said.
Describing the amount of work required to complete a BSN, Romero said, “The clinical intensives you may get four credit hours for your transcript, but you’re putting in twelve clinical hours per week.”
Kishbaugh said the journey through nursing school was a humbling process. “If you were a straight-A student before nursing school, you’re lucky if you get Bs in nursing classes. That’s why everybody’s really modest.”
At the pinning ceremony, the BSN students will stand out in white scrubs.