When the world looked at the face of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, it saw pure,…
Treating the whole person, body and soul
Small Catholic colleges are fast becoming attractive choices for students looking to excel and make a difference in the medical field.
Dr. Judy Kreye, associate professor of nursing at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, says that their Master’s of Science in Nursing students have a 100 percent pass rate on their certification exams, and she credits their success in part to their Catholic identity.
“Nursing by profession is care of the whole person. In some other universities, [it] may be difficult to address the spiritual side of that whole person,” Kreye told Our Sunday Visitor. “Here, that’s a large part.”
According to Kreye, who has been at Walsh for about 12 years, incoming students are not always the most academically prepared. But that’s for a reason. The school really focuses on recruiting young people who are the first of their generation to go to college. Kreye says those students work harder than most to ultimately become very successful. In addition, a generous fraction of Walsh’s approximately 3,000 undergrads live below poverty level and are supported financially by the school.
Advocates for women
In this day and age with the world becoming smaller, Kreye emphasizes that nursing is a global experience.
“We have to educate students on cross-cultural care,” she said. “Our students here are taking care of patients from all over the world. Some of the ways we do things are not acceptable to other cultures.”
For example, in the U.S., spouses and/or family members are often present in the delivery room when a mother is in labor. But in some Middle Eastern cultures, men aren’t allowed to be there.
Their strong office of global learning also helps expose students to the many different cross-cultural circumstances that they may encounter. This is further aided by two mission programs started by Kreye herself specifically for nursing students. One is a senior-level trip to Haiti along with the Akron Children’s Hospital. The other is to Tanzania, where the school has a relationship with the Diocese of Moshi (their previous bishop was a Walsh alumnus).
“I had a student when I started here in 2007 who was a nun from that community. She kept saying to me, ‘You have to come to my country,’” Kreye reminisced. “I thought, ‘Sure, Sister, I’m going to Africa,’ and I kind of laughed it off, but I ended up going!” And she has every year since 2010.
Recent nursing graduate Gabrielle Canterbury said that she wants to be “the next Dr. Kreye” because she is so inspired by all her mentor has taught her.
Canterbury grew up in a rural community in southeast Ohio and loved the small Catholic feel of Walsh, where she “wouldn’t just be a number.” It didn’t hurt that her aunt and sister had also attended.
Because she already has an undergraduate degree in biology, Canterbury did Walsh’s accelerated nursing program. She appreciates how nurses are on the front lines in patient care and are often the ones advocating for them.
“I just absolutely fell in love,” she told OSV. “I always wanted to serve others but in a way that I felt was my calling. I found that to be through the medical profession.”
She feels her specific calling is in labor and delivery and would eventually like to be a neonatal nurse practitioner or a woman’s health nurse-practitioner.
“I need to advocate for other females, to keep them healthy and educate them on their bodies, and how they work, and what to expect if they’re having a baby,” she said. “We are there with the mom and the family the entire time they’re going through labor. We’re the ones if they have no one else there; we’re their support.”
Canterbury credits her Catholic faith and the Walsh community for her success in the nursing program.
“Being around people who are interested in your interests and support you and also have that faith in God, there’s nothing better than that,” she said. “Walsh creates an environment where … you want to express your faith and interact with people.”
Experience with a twist
Over in Pennsylvania, Melissa Diffenderfer is a health-care simulation specialist at DeSales University, located in Center Valley. Her goal is to prepare students for real world work by being the “woman behind the curtain” who sets up medical scenarios using five high-fidelity mannequins.
“It creates a much more well-rounded health care professional and really does help them with the necessary human entity, the bedside manner component,” she explained.
The mannequins can do all sorts of things, including breathe, talk and move their eyes. One mannequin can give birth to a “baby” associated with her, with a variety of simulation deliveries available. Diffenderfer can “talk” to the students through all the mannequins, including two adult mannequins, a child and an infant.
She says that the center, with five working hospital simulation rooms gets used regularly, from the undergrad nursing school to DeSales’ nationally ranked physician-assistant graduate program. The environment provides a safe space to learn the different situations that a student will face.
“We want you to feel safe in messing up, we want you to ask questions, we want you to have this experience inside the safety of the four walls of the simulation department before you have to go out on a unit,” said Diffenderfer.
Dr. Mary Elizabeth Doyle-Tadduni, chairperson and associate professor in the Department of Nursing and Health, says DeSales stands out for academic excellence and hands-on experience in other ways, too.
Not only is their National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate higher than the state and national averages, seniors also work 180 internship hours in addition to their clinical hours. This valuable one-on-one time “really sets us apart from other schools,” Doyle-Tadduni said.
Like Walsh, DeSales’ rich faith life is evident and lived out in the classroom. On sophomores’ first day of nursing classes, their hands are blessed.
The students are “caring, intelligent, they’re altruistic. They care for the other. That’s what we believe here at DeSales and that follows the Salesian tradition,” Doyle-Tadduni told OSV. “Be who you are, and be that well.”
Mariann Hughes writes from Florida.