Senior Reilly McQueston ’19 discovered her purpose as a nurse by infusing nursing science with an appreciation for human dignity.
Nursing: More than Just a Science
By the time nursing majors at Elms enter clinical rotations, they have spent countless hours practicing their assessments in the simulation lab, fine-tuning their skills. But for Reilly McQueston ’19, patient care is about much more than just technique — it’s about recognizing human dignity.
“The most helpful thing I’ve learned at Elms prior to going to clinical is actually introducing yourself,” said the Haydenville, MA, local. “If you think about it, as a student nurse, you’re walking into the patient’s room, doing an assessment, helping them get ready for the day, feeding them. These are all very intimate actions.”
Small gestures like these help put patients at ease, Reilly said, and set the tone for the rest of the day. Since nursing majors at Elms have the chance to complete clinical rotations at a wide range of hospitals before graduating, they’re able to practice these skills with different populations.
As a student nurse, Reilly gained hands-on experience in maternity, pediatric, medical-surgical, geriatric, and oncology units. Her favorite rotation was med-surg, as it offered the chance to put her knowledge to the test.
“By the time you get there, you know all the fundamentals of nursing,” she explained. “Med-surg is about putting together all of the puzzle pieces. You really get a sense of what an entire patient caseload feels like.”
Tapping into the Culture of Success
Nursing education at Elms covers everything you need to know to make a difference in healthcare settings, from the theory of nursing medicine to health assessment procedures. Although the academic aspect of the major is challenging, Reilly said, the faculty work with students to create a culture of success.
“They hold very high standards for all of their students,” Reilly said. “But, that being said, when I graduate and become an entry-level nurse, I know that I will be prepared, I know that I will take great care of my patients, and that is thanks to all of the faculty and staff at Elms.”
In addition to the reputation of the nursing program, Reilly was drawn to Elms for its cozy, friendly atmosphere. “When I first stepped onto campus, the first thing I noticed was that they were building a fire pit,” she recalled. “People were sitting at the reflection pond, just having conversations. It really does feel comfortable and uplifting. I’m really glad that I chose to come here.”
As co-chair of the Student Nurse Council (SNC), Reilly contributes directly to this uplifting spirit. Members of the SNC have the privilege of meeting directly with the School of Nursing faculty to discuss different aspects of the program — they even have the chance to make suggestions for improvement.
“I get to practice advocating not only for myself, but for the rest of the students in the program,” Reilly said. “The faculty and students work together to find common ground.”
SNC reps also act as unofficial mentors. Nursing majors can go to them with questions about how to study for the NCLEX or what to expect when they move from the sim lab to clinicals. All of this adds up to something special, Reilly said.
“Now I’m a senior nursing student, and I have all the confidence in the world walking into clinical at 7:00 in the morning to take care of my patients.”
Training for Clinicals
The confidence that comes with mastery of medications, calculations, and treatments can’t be gained without a little effort — that’s where the simulation lab comes into play.
“The skills lab is a place where you can make mistakes, ask questions, and fumble with your IV tubing,” Reilly said. “When you eventually get to clinicals, you know exactly what you’re doing, and that you’re doing it correctly.”
“The clinical instructors are very approachable, and, they know you’re practicing, so they’re really supportive,” she added. “They’ll walk you through everything and ask you questions outside of the patient’s room, so that when you walk in, you feel prepared.”
After she graduates, Reilly plans to gain experience as a nurse before looking at graduate programs in nursing education. Her inspiration for earning her master of science in nursing degree is Karen Braccialarghe, assistant clinical professor at Elms.
“Prof. Braccialarghe is one of the most influential people on this campus,” Reilly said. “She’s currently earning her doctorate, which inspires me to know that I can be in school, have a career, and have a personal life. I can do all of these things.”