By Samantha Hilyer
Saint Vincent has recently partnered with Carlow University in order to offer a nursing program. John Smetanka, vice president of academic affairs and academic dean, explained that Saint Vincent had recruited students for nursing with the goal of 15 in mind. However, they went beyond their goal, with 26 students enrolling as freshmen for the fall 2019 semester.
The new nursing program allows students to spend all four years on the Saint Vincent campus while receiving their Bachelor of Science in Nursing through Carlow University.
The dual degree program, according to Dr. Smetanka, is a “pathway to an SVC degree” as well, which is offered to the new nursing students so that they have the opportunity to obtain both the liberal arts education that Saint Vincent offers on top of pursuing their nursing degree through Carlow.
Dr. Carla Tomas, a nursing staff member employed by Carlow University, has been on the Saint Vincent Campus fulltime since the beginning of this semester in order to teach and advise the freshman nursing class. While Tomas did not know the exact date the partnership between Saint Vincent and Carlow began, she stated that she had been working with Saint Vincent to recruit potential nursing students since October 2018.
According to Tomas, there were many factors that made Carlow an attractive partnership for Saint Vincent, one of them being that Carlow has had the highest passing rate in the NCLEX, the examination that nursing students must pass in order to be licensed, in Pittsburgh for five years.
Another reason, Tomas explained, is that 100% of Carlow’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduating.
Along with these successes, Tomas said another reason the partnership was desirable was because of “the strong foundation of both colleges being Catholic liberal arts schools.”
Tomas stated that so far, the nursing program is going well and that she is “excited about the way [the nursing students] are interacting with each other” in that they are all working and meshing together in a supportive way.
The freshman nursing students had a few thoughts about the program as well.
Nicole Friendshuh stated that, initially, she was concerned that she would be attending a school where the nursing program was just starting up – though she’s not worried anymore.
“The fact that Saint Vincent is collaborating with Carlow University reassured me as Carlow has a well-established nursing program and had a 100% pass rate for students on their NCLEX,” she said.
Michael Sarnelli liked that the program offers the same nursing courses as Carlow’s main campus – courses designed to build skills necessary to work in diverse settings.
“In addition, the program incorporates a wide variety of Saint Vincent’s core curriculum courses, in order to build a broader foundation of knowledge,” Sarnelli stated.
Right now, the nursing class of 2023 is looking forward to the new nursing skills lab which Saint Vincent is working to establish where the art gallery used to be in the Carey Center.
“The program overall is amazing,” stated Nicole Abrams, freshman nursing major. “I'm so excited to be here; all of the new tech they are building and nursing staff they brought from Carlow are excellent.”
Another reason that made the nursing program attractive to students was the affordability.
“I chose the nursing program from Saint Vincent because I got the Carlow education for the Saint Vincent price,” said Brett Andreani.
But the nursing students generally stated that one of the main reasons was Saint Vincent itself.
“I chose the nursing program here at Saint Vincent because it was the first year for the program and the atmosphere on this campus was exactly what I was looking for in a college,” said Andrew Howe. “When I first heard a program was starting here, I knew I had to come visit.”
Taylor Crouch stated that, although the nursing-specific classes are difficult, she is hopeful for her success in the program because the nursing advisor and professors are invested in the success of the new program and their students in general.
Stephen Jodis, dean of the Boyer School, said that he is also invested in the success of the program.
“I work with [Tomas] to smooth out issues and anticipate issues, and see what is needed in advance,” he said.
Jodis reported that if the new nursing program expands, it could have an interesting impact on the Saint Vincent community – especially in regard to potential new health-related clubs it could spur – based on what he has seen while working at other universities with nursing programs.
“Having an undergraduate nursing club has the potential to bring new programs to the campus and I don’t know what they will be, but it is exciting to envision [the possibility] and what the impact will be that they have on campus,” Jodis said.