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School of Nursing Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., right, shares a laugh with the new class of nursing students during orientation Monday morning. photo by Dana Johnson

Nursing School welcomes diverse group of students

BY: HEATHER L. HALL

Collette Rice, right, is all smiles as she and the rest of the incoming class begin their first day at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.
photo by Dana Johnson

8/26/2005 - Collette Rice, right, is all smiles as she and the rest of the incoming class begin their first day at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. photo by Dana Johnson

The new class of nursing students enjoy the weather during the School of Nursing\'s picnic on the lawn during orientation activities Monday.
photo by Dana Johnson

The new class of nursing students enjoy the weather during the School of Nursing\'s picnic on the lawn during orientation activities Monday. photo by Dana Johnson

From left, Tameria Yarbrough, Zina Clark-Ousley and Jason Tallman share lunch during the School of Nursing picnic.
photo by Dana Johnson

From left, Tameria Yarbrough, Zina Clark-Ousley and Jason Tallman share lunch during the School of Nursing picnic. photo by Dana Johnson

The newest class of nursing students converged on the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing on Monday for the first day of orientation and the start of the fall semester.

Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor and Dean of the School of Nursing welcomed students at the kickoff of orientation activities, along with University Chancellor Gordon Gee.

Eleven percent of the 327 new students are men, compared with 8 percent who enrolled at VUSN in 2004. Thirteen percent are minorities. The students come from 35 different states and 66 percent are from Tennessee. The incoming class has an average GPA of 3.36 and an average GRE score of 1,045.

Thirty-eight-year-old Jim Sanders is among the new students enrolled at VUSN, but he's not new to Vanderbilt. The registered nurse works in the Medical Intensive Care Unit of the Veterans Administration Hospital and previously spent 10 years working on 9South at VUMC.

Sanders is also a member of the Tennessee Air National Guard's 118th Aero-Medical Evacuation Squadron. He's been called to active duty twice since 2003 and expects to be called again while trying to get through the nursing program.

“I've been thinking about this for years. In 2003 we started gearing up for the war and it put things on hold. I knew if I didn't do it now it was never going to happen,” said Sanders. “I already know I'll be going back in the spring, so it will impact my spring semester,” he added.

But Sanders says he's determined to make it all work, juggling his current job in the V.A., pursuing his master's degree in nursing, honoring his military commitments and serving his country — all while trying to raise three young boys with his wife, Holly, in Smyrna, Tenn.

“I realize I'm putting a lot of irons in the fire, but I'm gambling that it's going to pay off for everyone in the end. I'm prepared to do whatever it takes.”

He says his family has been very supportive. “I give a lot of credit to my father-in-law. He was in the military and my wife was used to her dad being away,” added Sanders.

Sanders most recent tour of duty was working as a flight nurse on a crew stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, receiving and transporting injured soldiers from the conflict in Iraq.

He hopes to complete the program at VUSN and work in a clinic setting with the Air National Guard or Air Reserve, and plans to continue working in the V.A. Sanders said he has an interest in organ failure and would like to work as a nurse practitioner in the transplant arena at the V.A.

He said he sees a lot of veterans with heart, liver and kidney failure in his current role.

“The Vanderbilt School of Nursing is world known. I think it will open doors.” Sanders is entering the Adult Nurse Practitioner Specialty at VUSN.

Noriko Yamaoka had to travel a lot further to come to the School of Nursing. She left her home in Kobe, Japan, to enroll in the Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Specialty at Vanderbilt. She said she felt confident making such a big move because her brother attended the Owen Graduate School of Management in 2004 and liked Nashville and Vanderbilt.

She also did her homework, and said she found few R.N. to master's programs in the United States that offered the level of study and programs that VUSN does.

The 33-year-old has been working as a registered nurse in Japan for 11 years, having started as soon as she finished school. She worked as a public health nurse in a town office, community health setting handling health check-ups for the general public. It was there, Yamaoka said, she found her calling.

“I was often responsible for checking infants and I caught and diagnosed autism and other developmental problems in the children. Families were very confused.” Yamaoka said there are very few programs to help families of children with developmental problems in Japan. She said she hopes to earn her degree and return to her homeland to make a difference in their lives. “My goal is to improve psychiatric/mental health nursing in Japan, especially for the children with developmental disorders.”

Yamaoka also said she hopes to address child abuse in Japan, and said it has become a greater social problem within the last five years.

“One of the reasons is young parents don't have experience with how to play with their children, because they don't have sisters or brothers and are not used to that. So, they are having trouble with their own children,” Yamaoka said.

She said she'll miss traditional Japanese food, is a little concerned about driving and is mostly excited to study here in the United States and at Vanderbilt.

Rafael Gudiel, a Respiratory Therapist in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, will be working toward a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner degree at VUSN. He said he's always loved working with children. “I have been coaching kids for about 10 years.” He and his wife have a 4 year-old and have been caring for Gudiel's two younger siblings since his mother passed away in 1999.

The 26-year-old nursing student said he thinks his Spanish language skills will be an asset.

“There is a big demand for Spanish speaking health care workers. It's hard to communicate and I just feel like maybe I can help,” said Gudiel.

He plans to continue working while studying and would like to one day practice on his own.

“I hope to work in private practice with a pediatrician, maybe one day even open a small clinic, maybe just for children.”

The new students joined continuing students who returned to campus on Wednesday for a joint orientation program. Classes for all students began today.

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