Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College prides itself on the professional agricultural workers it creates, but the nursing program has a statewide reputation for producing nurses with solid values and abilities. As the second-largest major on campus, the nursing majors make a critical impact on the surrounding Southwest Georgia area.
Every college major has trials, but when entrusted with the life of others, those trials become more apparent. Health sciences and social sciences join together to create what is nursing. Nursing majors must learn the basics of healthcare and the demands of caring for others. All of this is accompanied by the need to take care of themselves. Social life and other aspects in an average college student’s life may not be a priority to nursing students.
Oftentimes, there are more applicants to the program than available spots. These students learn in clinical programs that simulate the fast-paced environment of healthcare.
If a student fails two classes during the semester, they are not allowed to re-enroll for another two years. Certain courses specific to nursing have expiration dates, ensuring a student has up-to-date knowledge before graduating. The rigors of the program are intended to highlight how demanding the career path is. Nursing is not for just anyone. It takes someone with true passion and drive to excel in the profession.
Unlike their peers, nursing majors are expected to operate at a professional level almost immediately.
During clinical, students must assume the role of experienced nurse to the best of their abilities. The professor guides them through this safely, but a specific level of maturity is needed to handle the gravity of healthcare.
Dr. Yvonne Smith, an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, stresses the importance of clinical judgment in clinicals. Dr. Smith said, “It is really important to their education to be able to apply their knowledge. It is not just knowledge, there is application.” Students must build a foundation of knowledge to analyze and synthesize the patient and their objective health data.
Morgan Thomas, a nursing major from Leesburg, Georgia, found her passion for nursing while working part-time at a local assisted living facility. Although the nursing program is strict, Thomas said, “Once I realized that I had gotten to the classes that were going to make me into the nurse I wanted to be, it became easier.”
Study habits must be altered from the core class standard, and a solid schedule is imperative. There are no concrete, easy-to-guess answers in healthcare. Students must be able to evaluate the specific situation and find the answer that best suits the patient’s needs. They must expect the unexpected.
Thomas originally began at ABAC as a Biology major before answering the call to nursing. She said her study habits changed once she transitioned from core classes to nursing. Spending an average of three hours every day studying, Thomas said, “It sometimes takes multiple study sessions to fully comprehend a certain topic, but you can’t give up.” A strict schedule is necessary to survive nursing classes. She plans to graduate in Fall 2022 with an Associate of Science in Nursing.
Despite the fact she has not graduated yet, Thomas receives emails regularly from local hospitals that need nurses. The pressure is put on before nursing students even graduate.
Due to the constant need for healthcare professionals, there are a variety of programs to accommodate traditional and nontraditional students. Generic track students pursuing an Associate of Science in Nursing must take two semesters of prerequisite courses before their first nursing course. Background checks are required to ensure the utmost safety of patients who will be treated by the students.
After that, students can begin four semesters of nursing courses. This pathway is the most common to become a Registered Nurse.
The Bridge track accommodates licensed practical nurses, paramedics, and respiratory therapists with advanced placement and a one-day-per-week program. While generic track nursing students can attend classes three to five days a week, Bridge students are in class one day a week for upwards of ten hours. This allows these students to work full-time jobs in the healthcare industry while still pursuing higher education.
Bridge student Caleb Poppell works full-time in hospice care while devoting Wednesdays to his studies. When working in healthcare, one must have strong emotional resilience especially when working with vulnerable patients. The bonds one form with patients lasts a lifetime after they leave their care.
This is incredibly true for students, like Poppell, in hospice care settings. Compassion towards the patients and their loved ones is crucial.
Poppell said, “You take care of each patient like you would your family member because that could be you or any other loved one laying there. They’re at the mercy of you.”
Being a nursing major entails having the physical and mental strength to provide the best care for patients while still caring for themselves.
Although nursing majors attend the same ABAC as everyone else, they are set apart. Their college experience is unlike any other due to their complex challenges. Surviving as a nursing major takes firm resolution and passion. Dr. Smith says, “The program demands a significant portion of students’ time. They oftentimes have to opt-out of activities on campus or in their personal lives to meet the demands of our program.” While other students engage in the college experience, learning to care for others takes precedence in a nursing student’s life.
The program is challenging, but the faculty continues to have the honor of conducting the nursing students’ pinning ceremony. This ceremony is unique to nursing and represents the dedication and strife students have experienced to reach graduation. The program’s reputation immediately ensures job offers for graduates.
ABAC alumni gracefully enter the workforce knowing they are prepared for the unexpected hardships of healthcare.