By Catie Etka
For an incoming college freshman deciding what they want to do for the rest of their lives can be daunting, and it can be hard for them to stay focused in the midst of their newfound independence.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) schedules a First Year Experience (FYE) course to students at the University level based upon their academic major interest. In addition to learning more about the career they hope to pursue, the students are introduced to skills that enable them to make for a more seamless transition to college life.
The FYE course promotes a common foundation for learning, whatever the student’s major or professional goal. Through the course, students learn the fundamentals of college life from a range of topics from reading and study, and organizational tips before getting a taste of what a career might be like in their declared major.
The UAB School of Nursing offers its own FYE course tailored to students who are interested in nursing. The course provides students insight into what it is like to be a nursing student and whether or not the career is right for them.
“This class offers students a glimpse into the world of nursing before jumping in,” said Director of Student Evaluations and Scholarships Stephanie Hamberger, MPA, who teaches one of the FYE sections each fall. “The course prepares students for the program and ensures we admit the most committed and enthusiastic students into the field.”
In addition to what these pre-nursing students learn in the classroom, they also have the opportunity to spend the day in the School’s simulation and skills labs, shadow a nurse at UAB Hospital and are walked through the admissions process for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
“This course not only prepares students for the transition into nursing school, but also allows students to connect with their peers, current nursing students and faculty,” said Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Peter Tofani, MS, LTC(R).
There are multiple sections of the nursing FYE course, called Nursing 100, taught each fall by Hamberger, Tofani and Program Manager Jacque Lavier, BA, MEd. In the fall 2015 semester, nearly 200 freshman students enrolled. Nursing advisors are being added as instructors for the upcoming academic year.
The course gives freshmen students a solid foundation to be successful in college and, eventually, the BSN program.
“I can imagine current students sitting in the nursing FYE course wondering how this class relates to the field they are entering, because that was me,” said second-semester BSN student Eric Nguyen. “But I guarantee you that two years from now you will be in the same seats, hearing the same concepts reiterated in NUR 310: Fundamentals of Nursing.”
The FYE course also includes students in the Dean’s Nurse Scholars Initiatives. These are highly qualified students who have earned pre-admittance into the BSN program. High school students with an ACT score of 24 or higher, sufficient nurse shadow hours and a statement of purpose documenting their experiences are eligible to apply to be a Dean’s Nurse Scholars.
Though some of these students have known they wanted to be nurse their whole life, they have found the course to be an eye-opening experience.
“During the course we did presentations about various jobs in the nursing field, which helped me realize the versatility of a career in nursing. I was able to see how nurses can help everyone, at any point in their life,” said Kimberly Peek, a Dean’s Nurse Scholar at UAB from Atlanta, Georgia. “I wouldn’t choose any other path, and this course made me realize that.”
The course has a high success rate. In the fall of 2015 the UAB School of Nursing admitted 128 sophomore students into the BSN program, 69 percent of which were pre-nursing students and 31 percent were Dean’s Nursing Scholars. Student success and progression rank as key priorities for the School of Nursing, with the intent to have successful graduates that can be a positive influence in health care.
Learning the nursing ropes early helps breed success
Potential nursing students offered career, college guidance through tailored freshman course