Over 100 institutions of higher education are listed as having a nursing program in New York state, and Plattsburgh State has come into the ranking as second-best of them all.
The website, nursingdegrees.com, evaluated PSUCs immersive nursing program on criteria such as tuition, retention rates and employment rates after graduation.
Noreen Houck is the chair of the Nursing Department and has been teaching at PSUC since 2004.
“Several things set us apart,” Houck said. “First of all, we’re a very popular program.”
Each academic year, the department receives between 1,000 and 1,300 applicants. However, based on resources at the time, there are usually only about 40 to 55 seats available in the major.
“Nursing is always considered one of the toughest programs on campus. It’s a rigorous applied science that has a lot of clinical hours as well as core science courses,” Houck said.
Sophomore nursing major Brittany Hartmann said the workload can be overwhelming, but pays off in the end.
“Everything we’re doing homework-wise is just helping us learn more about nursing and helping us to become better nurses,” Hartmann said.
What also distinguishes the PSUC nursing program from other universities is the almost immediate engagement for students into the ins and outs of the profession.
According to Houck, other schools that offer nursing will accept students interested in that program, but will make them apply at the end of their sophomore year, after their general education courses have been completed.
At PSUC, nursing students are receiving a dose of nursing education that eventually leads to full-blown immersion and clinical experience in the field their freshman year . Sophomore year is when PSUC nursing students truly start to train for their profession.
“Sophomore year, I like to think of as really gathering the skills and the mantle of the profession,” Houck said. “Junior year they really focus less on their own performance and more on problem-solving for the patient.”
Hartmann stated most of the work she does in her real-life clinical experiences involves monitoring breathing and heart rates of patients and things of that nature.
Natalie Flood is another sophomore nursing student who is experiencing clinicals.
“[Clinicals are] eye-opening. We’re working with the geriatric population,” Flood said. “I was definitely not as close to them as I am now. I realized how different it is taking care of them and how much care they need.”
Clinical hours are performed at the University of Vermont Health Network Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, with whom Houck states PSUC has a great relationship; possibly a reason for the quality education the students receive.
Senior year for nursing majors focuses more on building community health and leadership within the field, and includes a Capstone clinical experience, during which students will work “shoulder to shoulder” with a registered nurse.
Throughout their education, nursing students work with “high-fidelity” mannequins to practice their life-saving skills.
Instructors control the mannequins, which can breathe, talk, blink and give feedback. Students must problem-solve and provide treatment accordingly.
The high technology of these mannequins and other lab equipment available to students is ultimately conducive to an effective learning environment.
“That’s where a lot of nursing education is going,” Houck said. “The results are so powerful.”
“[Clinicals] are a learning process,” sophomore nursing major Lauren Safford said. You go in there and you learn what your skills are.”
Nursing as a profession may come as a culture shock to some.
“A lot of people think they understand what nursing is when they get into it, it might not be the kind of lifestyle they expect in terms of patient care or the culture and climate. Nursing is a rather personal profession,” Houck said.
“You’re really taking care of people at some of the most challenging moments of their lives. Whether it’s bringing in new life or someone dealing with crisis or tragedy, it’s emotionally taxing and it’s physically grueling, and it’s not always pretty.”
Houck stated the accolades and recognition the nursing program at PSUC is well deserved.
“I really enjoy our students,” Houck said.
“They’re optimistic and bright and energetic and dedicated, and these characteristics carry on when they graduate.”
PSUC nursing majors have a 100 percent employment rate after graduation and licensure.
“If I had to be in the hospital, to wake up and see one of my graduates would be very reassuring,” Houck said.