Nurses on the Way
School of Nursing prepares about 150 graduates to serve Valley and beyond
By Melissa Tav
During a typical semester the School of Nursing at Fresno State would be brimming with activity as students complete their final clinical training assessments before entering the workforce. The unexpected events this spring have transformed the way they learn, but the need for nurses is perhaps greater than ever.
This past spring, the nursing program transitioned into a virtual lab as a result of COVID-19, which put a halt on in-person classes. The virtual simulation courses mirrored real-life scenarios with students working through a patient encounter from introduction to diagnosis, followed by a discussion with faculty.
The virtual sessions were designed to help students develop critical thinking, clinical judgment, collaboration and communication skills — all while keeping them on track to graduate.
Each year, Fresno State’s School of Nursing graduates about 150 students — 100% of whom find employment or job placements before graduating, with a majority staying and serving local populations.
That’s good news for the Central Valley. As rapid population growth throughout California is outpacing the capacity of nursing schools to produce the next generation of frontline health care workers, the Valley’s shortage is among the most critical in the state.
According to a UCSF Healthforce Center report in 2018, the demand for licensed registered nurses in the San Joaquin Valley is expected to grow more than 35% in the next 10 years.
“Fresno State stands ready to partner with health care providers across the Valley to meet this challenge,” says Dr. Jim Marshall, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “It’s not just our mission, it’s our moral imperative. As one of the leading nursing schools in the region, we are proud to answer the call of preparing qualified nursing professionals, many of whom stay and serve the Valley long after graduating.”
Patty Olino is among the alumni serving the Central Valley. In her role as an ICU registered nurse, she cares for some of the region’s most vulnerable individuals, including those affected by COVID-19. She shares some of her experiences with her 35,000-plus followers on Instagram, and she cites her preparation in the field to the experience she gained in the competitive nursing program.
“Fresno State nursing students are highly sought-after, not only because graduates are committed to the communities they serve, but also because they demonstrate strong critical-thinking skills that are indispensable during the often quickly changing situations of their patients,” said Deanette Sisson, chief nursing officer for Saint Agnes Medical Center, during the State of the University breakfast hosted on campus this spring.
Family Nurse Practitioner Jordan Cutts graduated with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and has settled into private practice at Boswell Dermatology in Fresno. Cutts says
the nursing program at Fresno State gave him the tools and knowledge to branch out.
“Through the master’s program, I gained over 600 hours of clinical experience working in the hospital setting and definitely gained a lot of hands-on experience and community connections to health care providers in the region,” Cutts says.
An average of 25 students graduate each year from the master’s program, which is designed to provide specialized study in advanced practice fields, leading to careers as primary care nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and nurse educators.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice program has produced over 180 graduates since its inception in 2012, preparing nursing leaders for enhanced roles in hospital administration and nursing education.
Dr. Marie Gilbert, director of the Central California Center for Excellence in Nursing at Fresno State, was part of one of the first cohorts. After graduating in 2015, she returned to campus to train future nurses.
While all these alumni stories are unique, one thing is clear — serving the Valley is at the heart of what they do. Olino, a second-generation nurse who immigrated with her family from the Philippines when she was 5, says it best.
“Fresno holds such a special place in my heart, and so much of that I attribute to my time at Fresno State,” Olino says. “It is such an honor to serve this community.”
— Melissa Tav is a communications specialist for the College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State.
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