Richmond, Ind. - Graduates of Indiana University East's School of Nursing and Health Sciences are being sought by regional health care employers, and many of those hires are rising quickly in their profession.
Recent alumni are grateful for the close connections they've developed with faculty mentors and the use of cutting-edge technology during their instruction.
For instance, Tyler Evans, who earned a B.S.N. in 2013 and an M.S.N. in 2016, said finding his first job was a very smooth process. Through his initial position as a registered nurse at Reid Health in Richmond, he helped heart and lung surgery patients with their recovery.
Evans has since made internal advancements at Reid. In addition to his time in the intensive care unit, he has been able to start the Transition Coaching program, work as a team leader in the cardiac cath lab, and most recently joined management, where he has overseen many units and projects.
"I hear a lot of people say that a small school can't provide you with what you need to be successful, but I am living proof that if you take advantage of your opportunities, you can make the most of it," Evans said.
Evans said he had made connections at Reid through his clinical experiences and took a role as a student nurse during his senior year of nursing school. He was able to accept a position before graduation because of his position as a student nurse, and started his orientation before passing his boards, so he was a step ahead coming out of school.
He said he feels IU East's School of Nursing and Health Sciences prepared him well for the challenges of nursing after graduation.
"After my B.S.N., I was able to take a position in a high acuity area and felt confident in my ability to critically think and care for all patients," Evans said. "After my M.S.N. graduation, I quickly transitioned into a management role and felt like I had the skills needed to lead a diverse work force and strategically think ahead for the development of the departments."
Amber Huelskamp, a 2018 B.S.N. graduate, said she felt very prepared for the working world as well.
"Through many simulations, I became confident in my abilities and now apply those learning experiences to real-life situations," Huelskamp said. "Most of all, I am thankful for being certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support upon graduation, because this allows me to provide the best care possible to my patients, especially in the ICU."
Huelskamp is now a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at IU Health Ball Memorial. The Jay County High School graduate did her capstone experience with the resource pool at the Muncie hospital. She applied for a job at Ball Memorial's ICU about a month before graduation, and soon was offered her position after an impromptu interview with the manager.
Huelskamp is not alone in finding a job quickly after graduation. IU East surveyed those who received a B.S.N. in 2016, and nearly 91 percent of those who responded had started work within 6 months of graduation, with all but one within a year.
Donald Day Jr., DNP, MSNL, RN, who returned to the region last fall to become the Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Patient Care Services for Fayette Regional Health System in Connersville, said IU East students are well trained and well prepared to meet the expectations of the challenging workplace.
"They are not just taking care of people, they are also learning how to implement many different initiatives that add to the patient experience which many nurses have been able to learn over many years," said Day, who completed his undergraduate studies at IU East in 1998. "The students today learn quickly and are very engaged in helping the patient receive the best care possible."
As a hiring manager of talent while at Reid Health, Day said he always received great candidates from IU East and hired many of them who applied. Day said he also had extra insight as he had worked in the IU East skills lab through his first year as a unit director, so he had the opportunity to meet many of the students applying for work in the clinical setting.
Rachel Rose, who earned her B.S.N. in 2011 and M.S.N. in 2016, has gained additional appreciation for her IU East experience after entering the workforce.
"Now that I have spent several years in different nursing positions, helping train new nurses to their roles, and working with nurses who graduated from other schools in Indiana, I have a much better understanding of the wonderful education I received from IU East," Rose said. "I had wonderful instructors in MedSurg, psychology, pediatrics, critical care, and management. I was exposed to a wide range of patient population types, which helped me to know where I wanted to start my nursing career. I also had wonderful instructors, some of which I still have a relationship with to this day."
Personal connections help lead to jobs
Alumni say one of the benefits of IU East's nursing program is the faculty's dedication to serving as student mentors and staying connected after graduation.
"The connections I made within the School of Nursing, both with peers and faculty, can only be described as family," Huelskamp said. "We celebrated one another at our highs and supported each other through the lows. Shelly Burns was my mentor for my honors senior thesis, and now we greet each other with an eager hug every time to catch up."
"God truly knew what He was doing in leading me to IU East over four years ago," Huelskamp said. "Nursing school at IU East gave me more than a great education and the skills necessary to become an awesome nurse; it gave me a family for a lifetime. My peers and faculty supported me throughout every step of the journey. I am thankful for the affordable education, without compromising on quality or opportunities."
Rose said the connections she made with her mentor and her mentor's connections through the RN to B.S.N. program helped her obtain her first nursing job at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital as a bedside nurse on the medical telemetry unit.
Rose stayed in that role full time for a year before taking a job in critical care at Reid Health. While she was working there and enrolled in IU East's M.S.N. program, another connection formed with a peer at IU East led her to her first job in management at Fayette Regional Health System.
Currently, Rose is working as a travel nurse, so she takes short 13-week contracts to any hospital in the United States or beyond that needs her services.
"I think that IU East gave me the confidence and tools I needed to know I can pursue any position in nursing that I desire," Rose said. "... I am very grateful for both degrees that I've been able to obtain at IU East. I have two world-class degrees, but I never had to leave home to get them."
Evans said he's fortunate to have gained the experience and lifelong peer relationships that he formed while in school.
"I have a network of peers that reaches across state lines now that I can tap into at any time," Evans said.
Evans said he also was fortunate to have several influential faculty mentors during his undergraduate and graduate studies, such as Paula Baumann, Amanda Carmack and Diane Baker. He said Dean Karen Clark has also stayed in contact and asks him to occasionally help with the program, and he really enjoys giving back.
Day stays in contact with some of his professors from the 1990s as well.
"They are truly touching communities throughout the world with their programs for students," he said.
To help IU East stay current with the changing needs of the profession, its School of Nursing Advisory Council works to ensure the program remains visionary, collaborative and produces quality nurses. Day is a member of the council.
Clark welcomes alumni involvement and support of the school and its students as they go out in the community. She said scholarship donations are also extremely helpful.
Rose is extremely thankful for the scholarships she received from the Whitewater Valley Chapter of IU Alumni Association during her undergraduate nursing studies. That support from IU alumni made it possible for her to pursue a master's degree.
"I am most grateful for my ability to work full-time and obtain my M.S.N. degree without having to take on huge student loans like I have seen some of my peers do to complete M.S.N. degrees at other Indiana schools or online degrees," Rose said. "The IU East nursing program is a huge asset to the community."