At one point in her life, going to the doctor’s office was miserable for Alice Cohen — until one nurse who was giving her a shot changed her perspective on medicine.

The Plainville, New York, native used to have to be bribed with lollipops to get her face-to-face with a hospital. But when one caring nurse took a moment to allow Cohen to hear her own heartbeat, she wasn’t afraid anymore.

“She had so much compassion,” Cohen said. “It’s always stuck with me — I never forgot.”

Now, as a Plattsburgh State nursing student months away from graduating from a competitive program, she’s ready to be that compassionate nurse.

Originally, Cohen thought she would go to school for marketing or business. She then realized how much she loved science and helping people. She said being a nurse means being a patient advocate, supporting patients and supporting their decisions.
“There’s more to nursing than I ever thought possible,” Cohen said.

Cohen has been part of a thorough and rigorous nursing program at PSUC. She’s been able to learn necessary skills through a hands-on learning experience with many different components.

Cohen said the only way to be able to perform skills and interact with patients is by doing hands-on care in different situational settings.

“I need to be able to do hands-on things for me to get a skill down — nursing is that way,” she said.

During her sophomore year, Cohen learned the basics during her labs, such as learning about isolation and vitals. At this point in her schooling, she mainly shadowed and observed.

Junior year was when she received the bulk of her clinical rotations at CVPH. Her clinical experiences were diverse. She gained experience on different floors like post-op, maternity and oncology.

Senior year includes more involved work. Cohen worked with patients who were critically ill, observed surgeries and did a psychiatric rotation, which she said was an interesting and different kind of nursing than what she was used to.

While Cohen said every experience is new and leaves an impact, one situation left a particularly large impact on her.

On her first day back in clinical, she was assigned a “floater” nurse who wasn’t familiar with Cohen’s patient. When Cohen realized her patient wasn’t himself the next day and something began to go wrong, she issued a “rapid response,” which is when you ask for immediate help.

She said it was a “trying moment” as a student, because she has to apply what she’d learned right in the moment. She said she gained more confidence after that day.

“I now know that, in an emergency, I can remain calm and confident … I’m not going to freeze and not be able to function.”
Some of Cohen’s more memorable academic experiences include the National Alliance of Mental Illness conference, where she saw a speaker associated with the film The Soloist.

She spent time in both the Traumatic Brain Injury Center and the Dimension and Alzheimer’s Center in Sibley Hall, which she said was a rewarding experience. She was able to go on field trips with them and see how they are able to function within the community.

Unlike many other PSUC programs, Cohen went on a two-week immersion experience that is built into the nursing program. She chose and pushed for North Shore LIJ Medical Center in New Hyde Park on Long Island. She performed 12-hour-shifts in the emergency room and learned new clinical skills she hadn’t done before.

“I was really a nurse,” Cohen said.

As graduation approaches, Cohen said she has many different ideas for her future. She said her most concrete plan is taking her nursing boards in August. She might apply for a residency program at NYU or Stony Brook to gain more experience and get more clinical rotations. She would also enjoy working in the same place she did her immersion.

As for a specific kind of nursing, she enjoys the ER and orthopedics because she finds bones and muscles interesting. She said just wants to get her feet wet and gain more experience.

“I’m not here to make money,” Cohen said. “It’s something I’m passionate about — I want to be able to give back.”

Email Brittany Shew at fuse@cardinalpointsonline.com

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