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School of Nursing offers scholarships, computers to students in Future of You: Be a Nurse program

ISSUED: 1 September 2022

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — A group of nursing students gathered in the Erma Ora Byrd Hall atrium  Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the beginning of their education journey and to win a drawing for either a new laptop computer or Shepherd University Bookstore gift card.

They are part of a new program called The Future of You: Be a Nurse, started this year with a $998,709 CARES Act grant from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s Nursing Workforce Expansion Program through the Higher Education Policy Commission.

The grant required Shepherd to increase admissions of students from West Virginia by 20. Dr. Sharon Mailey, director of the School of Nursing, said Shepherd recruited 36 for fall 2022. Aside from the computer and bookstore gift cards, each new student in the program is receiving a $5,500 scholarship for this year.

“I think it’s significant that students are choosing a baccalaureate degree,” Mailey said. “That will position them in the future for opportunities across many areas of healthcare. It will leverage them into leadership positions and higher salaries and promotions. It leverages them into graduate school and doctoral work. There are many avenues for those with a foundational baccalaureate degree in nursing.”

Photo of nursing students posed in front of a Shepherd nursing background.

Pictured (kneeling, l. to r.) are Sydney Fulbright, Charles Town; Cynthia Hutson, Hedgesville; Dr. Lisa Zerull, assistant professor of nursing, front row, standing, Abbie Raney, Hedgesville; Sydney Fulbright, Charles Town; Samira Flores, Inwood; Emily Dawson, Capon Bridge; Lily Romero, Charles Town; and Panmook Namkang, Martinsburg, back row, Kaitlyn Dudley, Martinsburg; Naz Vanreenen, Martinsburg; Jacob Sedlitsky, Falling Waters; Hayden Kimball, Hedgesville; Mandy Derby, Martinsburg; Dezlyn Blackwood, Martinsburg; and Christian Cook, Kearneysville.

Those future career opportunities are part of what Haydon Kimball of Hedgesville weighed when he chose to attend Shepherd.

“When finding a college to go to, I knew nursing was what I wanted to do, and I knew Shepherd is the best nursing program around here,” he said. “Everybody’s been so nice and helpful here, and I know that after I graduate, I’ll have so many opportunities to do what I want to in the field of nursing.”

As part of The Future of You: Be a Nurse, the students attended a special summer orientation where they spent time in the nursing labs as well as with math professors and in biology labs—both departments that offer classes nursing students are required to take.

“The math department was helping calculate drug administration, how to calculate drips on IVs, helping students understand why math and the sciences are important to nursing,” Mailey said. “We’ve broken down barriers to that pathway into the sciences and math so that they find relevance in what they’re doing by having had the opportunity to work in our labs.”

Experiences in the lab made a good impression on student Kaitlyn Duvall of Martinsburg.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “I saw the hands-on labs that they have at Shepherd and thought that it is an amazing program.”

Mailey points out that Shepherd nursing students are in great demand across the region and are extremely prepared for the job when they graduate.

“We have 100 percent placement in the workforce,” Mailey said. “When recruiters come in, they often say Shepherd students are their first choice because they are so competent and they’re caring and compassionate. Those are three things that are essential in nursing.”

The 2022 board certification pass rate for first-time test takers from Shepherd’s nursing school is 91.6 percent. Mailey said the National Council of State Boards of Nursing expects that a school would have at least an 80 percent pass rate.

One thing Mailey thinks Shepherd offers students is the ability to learn from and interact with phenomenal faculty across all departments. She said the faculty in the School of Nursing bring their expertise into the classroom.

“They’re all doctoral prepared,” she said. “The majority do extra work and are out practicing in the community at least one day a week, so they bring that rich clinical experience right into the classroom. They take the extra time. They push students. It’s an act of love.”

Mailey said starting salaries for nurses in the area are around $70,000, and many places are offering sign-on bonuses and/or tuition forgiveness. She pointed out that baccalaureate nursing graduates from Shepherd make a significant contribution to the community.

“They are truly the pipeline to the hospitals in the region,” she said. “If you go to any of the local community hospitals, the probability of having a Shepherd graduate is very high. Our graduates are proud that they’re Shepherd graduates.”

Naz VanReenen of Martinsburg is excited as she begins her studies at Shepherd in The Future of You: Be a Nurse program and hopes to one day be a proud Shepherd graduate working in the healthcare field.

“I’m really excited to help other people in this field and be able to meet all the professors and learn their ways of teaching and just make new friends,” VanReenen said. “I love this school. I’d choose this over Marshall, WVU, anything. I love the town. It’s so beautiful.”

Cynthia Hudson of Hedgesville has returned to Shepherd after an 18-year hiatus to earn her nursing degree.

“I’ve always wanted to work with pregnant women and babies for probably the better part of a decade,” Hudson said. “I’m excited to finally start my journey. It’s nice to be back as a student again with more confidence and a greater drive, so I’m excited to be here.”

For information, visit Shepherd’s School of Nursing website.

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