How three CNCC alumni are bringing up the next generation of nurses
Though it has been years since Erica Yantzer, April Anthony and Tanyse Fessler graduated from CNCC’s nursing program, they’re still contributing to their alma mater by investing their time as director and faculty.
The three represent CNCC’s first three graduating classes of the program. Yantzer graduated from the program in 2005, and Anthony and Fessler graduated in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
The goal? Produce quality nurses.
That means students should not only understand the medical or scientific side, but they also approach the human side of the job with empathy and sensitivity. Yantzer, director of the program, has worked in many sectors of nursing — from public health to long-term care to obstetrics — but one of the most rewarding aspects of her career is watching students have their moments of clarity.
“I started as a clinical instructor,” Yantzer said. “And I really enjoyed watching those ‘Aha!’ moments in students and watching them grow into really good bedside nurses. I decided I wanted to be a bigger part of that, so then I became a full-time instructor. Then when the director position opened up, I decided I’d go for that, and here we are.”
Fessler, a member of faculty for the nursing school, echoed Yantzer’s sentiment toward watching young nurses gain valuable skills in the classroom. Though there is a lot to learn from textbooks and terminology, Fessler said that relating to patients and hands-on clinical work is crucial to the success of her students.
“If it’s a bad experience (for the patient), that’s going to be bad for them for a long time,” Fessler said. “That’s going to stick in their mind forefront. Even if they had a good nurse or experience during that stay, that part will not sit well and overshadow everything else.”
All three agreed that in the nursing world, it is common for more-experienced nursing or nursing school faculty to be harsh and aggressive toward new nurses or students, and Yantzer said it was her vision to make sure that this type of culture did not happen at CNCC.
“I want our nurses that we’re producing to help new nurses when they come on board; to nurture them, teach them, and welcome them with open arms because they are the future of nursing,” she said. “If we’re being mean and aggressive with these people, and not giving them the chances that they need to learn, we’re scaring them off. And I mean, we’ve already got a nursing shortage. Do we want to make it bigger? Or do we want to fix it?”
Anthony said when Yantzer approached her about coming on as faculty, Yantzer’s vision was one of the reasons she initially took the job.
“I really liked the philosophy of ‘not eating (our) young’ and supporting and growing new nurses, and helping them grow into better nurses,” Anthony said. “That was very attractive to me. The other thing is honestly family time, and having summers off is huge. I really like helping new students.”
Fessler said that working with new students is one of her favorite parts of the job, as well. Though perks like more family time made the initial job offer tempting, she said seeing her students grow into professional caregivers is one of the most memorable parts of her time as a faculty member.
“I also get the enjoyment of teaching from the ground up — teaching these guys the foundations of nursing,” Fessler said. “And it’s enjoyable. Like, we were discussing in class: you’re getting to lay the groundwork for them being the best nurses that they can be.”
Currently, there are 28 students in this year’s program. A few are in their early 20s, but many are older, and the age range of students differs and varies from year to year. In the future, Yantzer said she hopes to build a program to allow younger students to enter the program out of high school.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, students in the program attend lectures, and the rest of their week is spent in clinicals and labs to get hands-on learning. The three said they have had students from all kinds of backgrounds, but seeing students change their lives and the lives of their families is what keeps them coming back.
“When these students come in — who come from pretty desolate backgrounds — they don’t have a lot financially, (and) they don’t have a good home life, necessarily,” Yantzer said. “They didn’t come from a lot, and they’re doing this to literally change their lives. And to watch them succeed and get to the end of the program and have that opportunity to change their lives, to me, is by far the best part.”
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