Students need clinical experience and, at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, that’s what they get. The Margaret Whitehorne Student Nurse Service Program is an outstanding opportunity for nursing students to gain ten weeks of clinical work and preceptored participation at Bellevue. The program accommodates 100 students who choose to work in one of the many services at the facility — from psych to surgery.
A training school has operated at Bellevue since 1873. From its founding in 1736, Bellevue was committed to the principle that “no one is turned away”. The 11 public hospitals in the NYC system continue to stand for that principle. Anne Bové, RN and President of NYSNA’s HHC/Mayorals Executive Council and Secretary of NYSNA’s Board of Directors, coordinates the current student-nurse program at Bellevue.
Ms. Bové graduated from Hunter College in 1978 and has devoted her career to New York City’s public hospital system. “The public sector takes care of everyone,” she said proudly in an interview following the 2015 Recognition Ceremony — a graduation, of sorts — for student nurse volunteers in the Whitehorne Program held on August 19.
“I was trained by Bellevue nurses. It was hands-on experience, mentoring with staff,” she recalled. “I always had a sense of giving back what I got. Service is its own reward.”
Looking over the graduates, student nurses from Russia, South and East Asia and West Africa, Ms. Bové said, “They are very aware of community needs. The multicultural backgrounds of these students helps them address the healthcare disparities of their own communities.”
“The future of nursing is an extension of the community we take care of,” said Anne Bové. The students were extremely appreciative at the ceremony’s conclusion, with profuse thanks for the Bellevue experience. Most expressed an interest in working full-time at Bellevue and in the public system.
A dozen students recently completing the Whitehorne Program spoke to New York Nurse.
After arriving in the U.S. from the West African nation of Benin, Trinita spent several years working as a pharmacy technician before deciding to pursue nursing. Direct interaction with patients is what drew her to nursing. She values nursing’s holistic approach, in which “a patient is not just a disease or a symptom but a complex person.”
Her time in Bellevue’s cardiac unit built communication, observation and assessment skills and gave her a much better understanding of medications. She really enjoys the diversity at Bellevue, both in terms of case mix and cultures, as well as the opportunity to learn from nurses and patients alike.
Trinita will graduate from the New York City College of Technology in May 2016 and plans to continue studies toward her BSN.
After working for nearly two decades as a medical technologist, Kim is pursuing a nursing degree in order to be able to have more direct interaction with patients. She came to New York from Guyana eight years ago and will graduate from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in December. Her clinical externship at Bellevue was in the CCU, where she was exposed to a high-intensity environment that requires nurses to think on their feet. In particular, she “liked the unit’s fast-paced nature and the team ethic of the nurses.”
Kim thinks the biggest public health challenge facing the U.S. is stigmatization of certain illnesses, particularly in mental health. “When people hide their ailments and don’t seek treatment because of shame or fear of losing a job or social status, it creates problems for the entire health system.”
Raza will graduate from the College of Staten Island this December with his BSN. As with other Bellevue program participants, he sang the praises of Bellevue’s nurses for their willingness to teach and mentor and the rich experience that resulted. He was drawn to nursing as a result of a childhood illness in which he spent considerable time in hospitals. The nurses left a lasting impression that inspired him to pursue this career.
He sees community nursing as a key to improving care and lowering long-term healthcare costs. “Prevention is critical and is not given enough emphasis in our current healthcare system. Nurses have a big role to play in raising awareness on public health issues like pollution and climate change.”
Between his May 2015 graduation from Borough of Manhattan Community College and the start of the Bellevue externship, Fionn traveled to Vietnam where he volunteered at a hospital. “Here we spend more time on documentation and customer service aspects of care. In Vietnam, you work with what you can get your hands on. Patients are happy to just get care, period.”
Interests in anatomy and physiology as well as a fundamental desire to help people led him to nursing, and the growth outlook for healthcare careers reinforced his decision. As he transitions from school to full-time work, Fionn is concerned about “the overwhelming focus on profit as healthcare has become more and more business oriented. Healthcare professionals should only have to worry about their patients, and not the bottom line. That would be the advantage of having universal health.”
A passion for science and a desire to make a better life led Sujan to pursue a career in nursing. Raised in Nepal, she will graduate from LaGuardia Community College in December. She plans to eventually earn certification as either a Nurse Practitioner or Anesthetist.
Sujan thinks it’s important that nursing students keep open their eyes, ears and minds. “I’m learning that one should always be wary of preconceptions. Before stepping in to care for a patient, I tell myself to open my mind so that I don’t miss out on subtle signs or signals the patient gives.”
Tin chose nursing in order to help the sick and build his knowledge of the human body and mind. He graduated in May from the Borough of Manhattan Community College with an ASN and is now pursuing a BSN at City University of New York.
For him, one of the biggest issues facing nursing students is “the lack of clinical experience most have upon graduation. It hinders our ability to get that first job.” Externships like Bellevue help bridge that gap. During his time volunteering in Bellevue’s PACU, he saw many different types of surgical patients each day and was impressed with the high degree of collaboration he witnessed between the nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists and other physicians. “It was wonderful to witness how they all work together so effectively for the safety and well-being of the patients.”
Dorota will graduate from LaGuardia Community College this December with her ASN. She already holds a Master’s Degree in psychology and worked at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in social work prior to entering nursing school. Dorota has a particular interest in children’s mental health, which is what led her to pursue the Bellevue program. “Bellevue has a very unique and successful approach to children’s mental health. The fact that it is a public hospital that treats anyone and everyone opens up more opportunities for research and learning.”
The healthcare industry’s current emphasis on transitioning care away from an inpatient setting to outpatient requires careful consideration. “Particularly with mental health, transitioning to outpatient may not always be the best solution. There has to be balance that is designed for the best outcome for the patient.”
Stacy sees nursing as a unique field. “It’s the one field where you can genuinely make a difference in people’s lives.” She will earn her ASN from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in December and hopes to be working in Bellevue’s CCU once licensed. “I had the privilege of working with the same preceptor for the duration of the program. I got to see what she saw, hear what she heard, and do what she did.” Stacy was impressed with the teamwork she saw in Bellevue’s CCU. “The nurses really had each other’s backs.”
She sees real value in a strong public hospital system. “Until we achieve universal healthcare, public hospitals are needed for those who can’t afford care elsewhere. Without them, some patients would have nowhere else to go.”
Anam knew she wanted to study medicine but did not know in which area. She ultimately chose nursing because of its focus on the whole patient. “I want to be everything for my patients — their advocate — and nursing lets me do that. There are so many environmental factors impacting a patient’s health — air and water quality, climate change, family dynamics — nursing looks at all of them, and I like that holistic approach.” She’s a student at Touro College, where she’ll earn an Associate’s Degree next June and continue on for a BSN.
“It’s not an easy job. In my clinicals and through the Bellevue externship, I got to see how hard nurses work and the demands that are placed on them. To survive in this profession, you have to have passion for your work and empathy; money cannot be the prime motivator.”
Nicholas credits his vocation for nursing to growing up in a family that experienced a lot of illness. His caring personality made nursing a natural fit when it came time to choose a career. Longer term, he plans to become a Nurse Practitioner, but is starting with his ASN from Borough of Manhattan Community College. He completes that program this December.
“The Bellevue program gave me daily exposure to how closely nurses must work together. I saw firsthand the time and energy nurses spend advocating for patients.”
Prior to Bellevue, he hadn’t had much exposure to NYSNA, but looks forward to being an active member once he’s employed. “RNs work so hard. I was so happy to see that they have such a strong advocate in NYSNA.”
A high school community service requirement led Marcos to a job at a health clinic, opening his eyes to the vast numbers of people in need of healthcare. Upon graduation, he chose to study nursing because of his interest in sciences and opportunities the profession offered. He’s enrolled at LaGuardia Community College and expects to earn his ASN in December 2016.
Like many of his peers, Marcos cites the shortage of quality clinical opportunities available for student nurses as the most significant hurdle facing new graduates. Prior to the Bellevue program, “I felt at a disadvantage; I had done clinicals but nothing like this. This summer gave me real life experience, building my confidence and comfort level with patients.”
Born in Russia where her grandfather was a doctor, Irina was exposed to medicine early on. Starting in Russia, through Israel and then to the U.S., with many different jobs along the way, she landed a job in medical sales, which rekindled her dream to pursue medicine. She will earn her Associates Degree from LaGuardia Community College in December and is already enrolled at Hunter College for her BSN, with longer-term plans to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Irina was struck by the diversity she saw at Bellevue and would like to continue to work in a similar environment. “With my own diverse history and long path to the U.S., I could relate to the stories of many Bellevue patients.”