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Be Prepared

Nursing students undergo intense training to prepare them for service.

Nurses have to be prepared for anything, and when it comes to making sure they’re ready, ONU’s nursing program delivers.

The 121-student program is known for its rigorous curriculum and high-impact learning opportunities. On top of classroom and lab work, every student is required to complete 840 clinical hours in a hospital setting throughout the four-year program. Students are put through intense training and are routinely pushed to their limits. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

Elizabeth Yaeger, a senior nursing major from Copley, Ohio, recalls her initial thoughts on the nursing program when she started as a freshman.

“My first impression was, ‘Wow, these professors have definitely set the expectations very high,’” she says. “However, I knew that I wanted to be pushed outside of my comfort zone because that is where the greatest growth and learning occurs.”

Megan Lieb, an alumna of the ONU nursing program herself, is a member of the program's experienced faculty.The program’s primary values are visible in its curriculum. There’s utmost emphasis on teaching clinical reasoning and nursing skills in its most natural environment – clinical – or the next closest thing – lab simulation. Also, students don’t have to wait to get the full experience. Declared nursing majors typically jump into their first nursing course during spring of their freshman year, their first lab simulation during fall of their sophomore year and their first clinical during spring of their sophomore year.

“We really immerse them early on,” says Megan (Helser) Lieb, BSN ’09, assistant professor of nursing. “That allows us to deliver content and try to get them to view knowledge in a new way. They realize that situations are not always textbook. To really make sense of the experience, they need to translate that knowledge into new situations.”

Another aspect of the program that sets it apart is the faculty. All faculty members maintain active RN licenses and many are certified in a particular practice area. They have between eight and 30 years of experience caring for patients and their families, and some are currently employed at local hospitals. These experiences allow faculty to enrich the curriculum with stories of human caring in today’s health care environment.

We’re all very close to practice, which allows us to bring those experiences back to the classroom and develop case studies and learning experiences out of the things that challenged us on the floor,” Lieb says. “It’s obviously challenging to the students, but I think it’s one of the ways they’re able to really succeed.

From left, students Braden Kuhn, Haley Lyle and Elizabeth Yaeger sharpen their skills in a lab in Mathile Center for the Natural Sciences.The faculty acts as an excellent support system for students. In lab simulations, mistakes are not only expected, but also encouraged. It’s one of the best ways to learn, but it can strike an occasional blow to a student’s confidence. For this reason, nursing faculty members are constant in their support and encouragement, something that speaks volumes to their students.

“The faculty here genuinely cares for our well-being,” says Patrick Sullivan, a senior nursing major from Cleveland, Ohio. “They push us to step outside our comfort zones and challenge us to perform our best no matter what. No matter how tough the situation, class work or clinical experience is, they have shown me how to keep a level head and press on, because there is always light at the end of the tunnel.”

Yaeger echoes these sentiments, “With each exam, group project, long clinical day and lab simulation, I feel the professors urging us to try harder. But they are always available to help when we do not understand, make mistakes or just need a little motivation.”

The program’s success speaks for itself. In 2017, ONU’s nursing program was ranked second among 84 programs in the state by RegisteredNursing.org. For the last five years, ONU’s graduating nursing students have achieved more than a 95 percent passage rate on the NCLEX-RN exam, the national licensing exam for registered nurses. In the past five years, 93 percent of ONU nursing majors found full-time employment or were enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation. Many of them have moved on to impressive careers at large teaching hospitals across the country, including the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Ultimately, though, well-preparedness is about more than just the technical; it’s about the personal too. 

I feel as though I could walk onto a hospital floor today and be able to care for my patients, and care for them well,” Yaeger says. “The faculty has taught me not only how to correctly care for patients, but how to best care for them – how to focus on patients as people instead of an illness, how to address all factors that may be affecting someone’s health and how to therapeutically handle situations for the best quality of care. The ONU nursing professors taught me how to be a true nurse, a nurse that is willing to go above and beyond to help someone at the worst time in their life.

For a nurse, the phrase “be prepared” carries a whole other meaning. It’s not just about being ready to treat patients but also to serve them. Walking the path of an ONU nursing student may not be easy, but graduates leave here well-equipped to fill the shoes of a first-rate nurse ready to do both.