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R-MC’s nursing: What is in store for future students?

Reily Risley '21

Contributing Writer

This year’s incoming freshman class contains our first cohort for R-MC’s newly instated Nursing Program. 35 students are part of the future program, with room to grow to forty. The overall maximum cohort size is dictated by the Virginia Board of Nursing. Current freshmen who are not yet part of the program will have the chance to internally transfer into the program.

The review process for both high school seniors applying to the program and possible transfers is the same holistic process. Academics alone are not enough for students to gain entry. Those who have exposure to healthcare and know how the system and the profession operate, gain an advantage in the admissions process.

When asked what sets Randolph-Macon apart from other institutions with nursing programs, Professor Rubenstein, department chair, said “the nurse leaders of tomorrow need to have a skillset [that is] much broader.”

Dr. Rubenstein and two Nursing students at the Remote Area Medical clinic in Grundy, VA. Photo courtesy of Dr. Rubenstein.

R-MC is a liberal arts college, and as such is able to provide an education that integrates more than preliminary information related to majors and minors. Liberal arts institutions further integrate information pertaining to social structure and political climates into the curriculum, which better prepares students for the healthcare systems of tomorrow.

The Nursing program is intense. Like all R-MC students, those enrolled in Nursing are required to fulfill their AOKs and CARs along with the more specific nursing classes. With the intensity of the program, the students are being carefully advised.

Many of the prerequisites that students will take crossover with AOK and CAR requirements. While double or even triple majoring is a possible option for most students, it is not feasible for students in nursing. Nevertheless, it is of course possible for nursing students to pick up a minor or a focus in concentrated courses, such as a foreign language.

Another benefit for students who decide to major in Randolph-Macon’s Nursing program is the ability to have a more “normalized” college experience. The Nursing program allows students the ability to play sports and be a part of programs like Show Choir and eSports.

Currently, there are eight student athletes in the Nursing program. Many students in similar nursing programs across the country, unfortunately, do not get the chance to study abroad during the academic year. They typically have to choose whether to study abroad or gain more experience in the medical field through internships.

However, at Randolph-Macon, our nursing students have the opportunity to study abroad because we have J-term. Professor Rubenstein hopes to establish a partnership with St. Luke’s in Tokyo, so that students can travel to Japan during a J-term and learn about (culturally) different nursing techniques there.

Another benefit of R-MC’s Nursing program is that students will receive direct patient experience as part of their intensive preparation. Starting in their sophomore year, students will visit hospitals, schools, and clinics in order to gain real-world experience in the nursing field.

Students will have approximately 700 hours of direct patient care experience by the time they graduate. The early start of both the program and the direct patient care experience is what drew student Jay Guller ’23 to the program. Some of the other schools he had considered applying to had programs that started in their junior year, but Jay preferred R-MC’s model because not only can students take nursing classes starting in their freshman year, but they can gain extensive practical experience very early their college careers.

Already, some students have started their service learning. Professor Rubenstein recently took two students to Grundy, Virginia to a remote area clinic to study healthcare.

The nursing building, which Professor Rubenstein believes will be completed in Aug. 2020 will be a further benefit for R-MC’s nursing students. The first two floors of the building will be dedicated to the program. There will be faculty and staff offices along with a classroom and lab spaces.

The third floor of the building is being built proactively, which means that it will be set aside in preparation for future college needs. The lab space of the building will consist of a health assessment lab, which will mimic a doctor’s office; a skills lab, which will mimic a hospital setting with ten hospital beds; and a simulation center.

The latter is a High-Fidelity Simulation Center with a computerized mannequin that will be suitable for different patient scenarios. For example, it is able artificially to talk and react like a human patient likely would. Students will also be able to practice without instructors in the room, but instructors will nonetheless provide feedback on the student’s performance.

Nursing students are guaranteed to receive mini iPads when they enter their sophomore year. These will support the teaching-learning-strategies of the program. Students will be able to work in small groups in which they will be asked to apply critical thinking and reasoning in patient scenarios. The iPads are especially useful in that regard because they will allow students to create concept maps of patient care. Tests will also take place on iPads because the NCLEX exam—a national and standardized exam nursing students are required to pass in order to enter the medial field post-graduation—is also computerized. Throughout their college experience, students are thus familiarized with future testing conditions. Another fun piece of technology that students in the program will be able to use is stethoscopes which will be able to simulate abnormal heart and lung sounds, providing students with experience in critical health scenarios.

Gullar believes the program is very put together. He feels confident and excited about the program. For him, he believes that the Nursing program and the liberal arts education he will receive from R-MC will benefit him enormously.

“[Knowledge is] power,” he said. “And the more education I have, the better I’ll be in any career I’ll choose.”

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