Union College nursing graduates posted a 100 percent first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-RN national licensure exam in 2018. For May 2018 graduate Hope Sajdak, that meant starting her new job right away in the intensive care unit at Soin Medical Center, part of Kettering Health Network in Ohio.
She first fell in love with the fast-paced environment of the ICU during her clinical rotations at local hospitals. “I could tell ICU was my calling,” she said. “Getting into the ICU isn’t easy as a new graduate, but I knew that’s what I wanted.”
And thanks to Kettering’s guaranteed jobs for Union nurses, she is getting her chance. The hospital network values the Union program and will guarantee a job to any graduate who passes the NCLEX-RN, has strong references and is willing to stay two years.
In addition, Sajdak received a signing bonus of $10,000 for attending Union all four years as a pre-nursing and nursing major.
Sajdak appreciates the opportunity to work in a hospital system that holds the same Christ-centered values she grew to love in her nursing school. “I’m thankful to work for great leadership in a spiritual environment,” she said. “This job probably wouldn’t have been possible without Union.”
Intensive training for intensive care
The Union College nursing program has a history of high NCLEX-RN first-time pass rates. In fact, Union had the highest pass rate of all the nursing schools in Nebraska in both 2015 and 2016.
To Dr. Nicole Orian, chair of the Division of Nursing, high first-time pass rates are the natural result of a program intentionally designed by the faculty to prepare new graduate nurses for the ever-changing healthcare environment. “We want our students to have confidence in their academic preparation and be competent and confident as they begin their careers as professional nurses,” she said.
That means extensive hands-on experience in Union’s Nursing Simulation Center, which is set up like a hospital unit and teaches students to work as a team to care for multiple patients. A combination of high-tech manikins and live volunteer “patients” allow students to practice critical thinking in a safe environment that integrates high tech and high touch with low risk.
Throughout the program, students complete more than 925 hours of clinical experience in local hospitals, simulation, and other healthcare organizations including a three-week clinical immersion preceptorship during the final semester. “These experiences create opportunities for students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom—clinical experiences are critical to solidify learning and enhance critical thinking,” said Orian.
But she believes that being an excellent nurse is more than science and understanding how to complete nursing tasks—it’s also an art, the art of caring.
“We’re all nurses,” Orian said of the nursing faculty. “We are used to providing holistic care for patients. Now, as teachers, we shift that mindset to our students. We don’t want them only to grow academically, but spiritually, socially and physically as well.”
In fact, that’s what drew Sajdak to Union. She first decided to become a nurse after a hospitalization in high school.
She distinctly remembers wanting to model her life after the nurses who cared for her. “They made a big difference in easing my pain and anxiety,” she said.
Sajdak saw how Union’s small classes led to lots of personal attention from teachers—both in and out of the classroom. She also appreciated Union’s clear four-year plan for nursing majors and the track record of success indicated by the high NCLEX pass rates.
“I could tell God was leading the program and leading me,” she said.
Finding nursing success
For Orian and her fellow teachers, helping all their students follow their calling is the ultimate measure of success.
“We’re so proud of our students,” said Orian. “A high pass rate shows potential students they’re investing in high-quality education. We want students to feel confident they’re making the right choice.”
Sajdak believes that Union made her career possible. “If students choose Union and put in the time, they’ll be successful,” she said. “The NCLEX-RN was the bright light at the end of my tunnel and I’m happy to know my career will make a difference in many lives.”
Learn more about the Union College nursing program at www.ucollege.edu/nursing
By Emily Roque Cisneros