Going the Distance
Going the Distance

This academic year, graduation ceremonies for Creighton nursing students took place far — and really far — from Omaha. The College of Nursing conferred BSN degrees on 15 students in Hastings, Nebraska, and 18 in Phoenix in December 2018.

The pinning ceremony in Hastings represented the first time in 32 years that graduates of Creighton’s educational partnership with Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings had not traveled to Omaha for commencement. Also, significantly, eight of the Hastings students graduated from a new initiative called the 3+1 Program.

The 3+1 in Hastings and the accelerated nursing program in Phoenix are innovative ways the college is meeting the health care needs of two very different parts of the country — central Nebraska and the state of Arizona.

The two programs are designed with students in mind. The 3+1 allows rural area students to stay close to home, spending three years on the Hastings College campus followed by one year in Creighton’s Accelerated BSN program on the Mary Lanning campus. Graduates earn two degrees in four years: a bachelor’s from Hastings College in biology-health systems and a bachelor’s in nursing from Creighton.

In the Phoenix program, students who have at least a bachelor’s degree in another discipline earn a BSN in one fast-paced year in a part of the country facing a critical shortage of health care professionals.

“It is exciting for the future that both programs are growing. That bodes well for these two communities, but it is also good for Creighton,” says Catherine Todero, PhD, BSN’72, RN, FAAN, dean of the College of Nursing.

“Typically, rural communities feel nursing shortages the worst. It’s very important to educate people where they live because they are more likely to stay and be nurses in that community,” Todero says, adding that nursing students educated on the Creighton campus are much more likely to stay in the Omaha area upon graduation.

“But if you educate them where they are, they’ll likely stay and work in that community.”

Baylie Knouse, BSN’18, and Shaun Stevenson, BSN’18, are two of the new graduates — Knouse in Hastings and Stevenson in Phoenix. Both were quickly employed upon graduation.

“I knew I wanted to go to Hastings College, and I knew I wanted to be a nurse,” says Knouse. “I thought I would have to attend college for four years and then apply to a nursing school.”

Knouse’s great-grandfather had attended Hastings College, and she liked the size of the campus and the personal nature of the Creighton program. “I wanted a small campus — I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle” at a larger university, she says. Knouse, who is from Grand Island, Nebraska, lived at home and commuted 25 miles each way for the four years.

She had a music scholarship and played in the Hastings College band; that is, until her final year when nursing clinicals made that too difficult.

“I’ve always enjoyed music, but I was never interested in it for a career. I have a passion for helping people, and I thought I could really make a difference in people’s lives as a nurse. When my family started to develop a lot of health issues, I found myself caring for them, which solidified my decision to pursue nursing as a career,” she says.

She is working in pediatrics at CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island, where she had done a preceptorship last year.

“During my preceptorship I was with a longtime peds nurse and I realized she was who I aspire to be someday,” says Knouse. “I always thought I wanted to do pediatrics because I really love kids, and I think it takes something special to make them feel a little more comfortable when they are at their worst.”

She also cares for some adults: “The unit I work on also takes adult medical and surgical patients. I thoroughly enjoy the mix of kids and adults.” 

Stevenson, who is from California and whose nursing education represented a career change from being a high school chemistry and biology teacher, was thrilled that he could complete a nursing degree in only one year. He says he had resigned himself to going to school longer to achieve his goal of changing careers from education to nursing.

He learned of Creighton’s accelerated program through a Facebook ad. “I thought, wow, that’s the most amazing thing I’ve heard,” he says. He was planning to move to Omaha because the Phoenix program was full, when he got a call from admissions that a seat in the class had opened up.

He is ultimately interested in operating room and telemetry nursing, and is working for Concentric Healthcare Staffing in Phoenix to gain a variety of experience.

“In the operating room, it’s all about thinking on your feet,” he says, “and with Concentric, I’m told, ‘Go cover this shift at this hospital.’

“Creighton gave us so much experience in our clinicals, with four weeks in one location, four weeks in another. I had 18 shifts in a cardiothoracic ICU.

“Basically, it feels insane as a student — studying for tests, doing clinicals. The program is extremely intense, but you come out a cut above. I feel very blessed by what I got from Creighton.”

Dean Todero says one thing that stood out for her at the Phoenix ceremony was “the absolute joy” in the room. “I don’t think I have ever witnessed such excitement about a pinning and graduation.”

She says she also thought about how excited the Phoenix and Hastings communities seem to be “that Creighton is there, and that we are creating nurses for their future health care.

“It reminded me that we are privileged to impact the lives of so many people. Not just the ones we educate and form into professional nurses, but also the lives that they will impact or change through their competent and compassionate care.”

Article written by Cindy Murphy McMahon, BA’74 and published in the College of Nursing Progress Report 2018-2019