2:29 p.m., Feb. 5, 2010----For the 22 students in the University of Delaware's Accelerated Nursing Program, graduation day came on Thursday, Feb. 4, marking the end of 17 months of intense study and laying the foundation for a new career. The accelerated program is designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree in another field who wish to pursue a bachelor of science degree in nursing.
“This is an incredible accomplishment,” Kathleen Matt, dean of the UD College of Health Sciences, said in addressing the graduates. “It's obvious that you're very driven towards the end goal of becoming nurses. The job that you are looking ahead to is a challenging one and a difficult one.”
Matt also talked briefly about UD's plans to build a health sciences campus at the site of the former Chrysler plant in Newark. “It's very exciting for our college to be involved in the repurposing of the Chrysler site,” she said. “What we discover in the labs here at UD gets translated into new diagnostics and treatments that have an impact in practice.”
Kenneth Miller, director of the UD School of Nursing, reminded the graduates that they would be assuming new roles. “Instead of being a biologist, a sociologist, a historian, or a Chrysler worker, you'll become clinicians and educators,” he said. “You'll move from a dependent role to an independent one, and you'll assume responsibility for the positive outcomes expected by both your patients and your employers.”
Many of the accelerated nursing students are married, and some have children. They have aspirations to work in emergency care, hospice care, and intensive care, in small local hospitals and large medical centers.
Their backgrounds are a diverse mix of previous careers, volunteerism, and travel. Jesse Dorfmeister, who lived in China for two years and worked in sales for eight, is married and the father of a two-year-old daughter. With a degree in history from SUNY Brockport, he intended to be a social studies teacher but, after two years of working, found it to be a poor fit. A switch to sales was financially lucrative but not emotionally rewarding.
“My mother is an LPN, and my wife is a nurse anesthetist,” he says. “They have always been happy with their jobs. Nursing appeals to me because there are so many directions you can go with it.” For now, he has accepted a position with Bristol Regional Medical Center in Tennessee; in the future, he may return to school for a master's degree so that he can teach in a clinical setting.
Alex Kiume, who will be joining Dorfmeister at Bristol, holds a degree in education from Kenyatta University. “I always wanted to do something with medicine,” says the native of Kenya. “And when I got to Delaware, I discovered this great program that would take into account all of my previous education.”
Kiume's preceptorship in an intensive care unit helped him identify his specialty. “I love working in the ICU,” he says, “because taking care of people dealing with multiple medical issues requires critical thinking skills.”
Andrea Graham, who holds a degree in biology from Temple University, always knew that she would go back to school for more education. After working as a podiatric medical assistant for a short period, she decided that nursing was the best fit. Volunteer work in underprivileged communities in Mexico, Belize, and the U.S. also had an effect on her choice. “I knew I wanted to be in a caring profession,” she says. Graham is hoping to find a position in maternity nursing.
The journey from an earlier career to nursing was perhaps the longest for Christopher Halligan. The married father of three daughters, Halligan has a bachelor's degree in business and technical writing from the University of Delaware and a master's degree in human resource management from Widener University.
Halligan graduated from high school in 1982 and spent six years in the Marine Corps. He then worked at Chrysler for 18 years and realized it was time for a career change when news came a few years ago that the plant would soon shut down.
“After taking a buyout offer,” he says, “I began my work at Del Tech to take care of the foundation courses for nursing. I then went back to UD in the Accelerated Nursing Program. This time around, I knew I wanted a career that would let me leave a mark through service to others.”
In her remarks to the graduates at the ceremony, program director Pat Drake said, “The chances are good that many of you will be working with other UD nursing graduates. We have alumni in virtually every state and several other countries as well.”
With the new crop of graduates scattering from Delaware to Tennessee, Missouri, Minnesota, and places yet to be identified, there is a good chance Drake is right.
As for Halligan, he plans to stay as close to Newark as he can. And there's a good chance that he'll be around to see his former place of employment grow into a state-of-the-health sciences campus serving the entire region.
Article by Diane Kukich
Photo by Doug Baker