There is no doubt that the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania presents its undergraduate students with a prestigious degree program. Just by looking on the school’s website, scrolling through the Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) sample plan of study, reading about all the accomplished faculty, and seeing the variety of courses offered, I wondered if one person could handle all of this and have a successful and satisfying four years. However, from the start, the School of Nursing makes it known to its students that indeed you can achieve all you set forth too and they are there to extend their helping hand whenever and however it is needed. This is seen through a variety of programs, principles, and initiates set forth by the school to help with the practical side of managing your academics and, most importantly, instilling a positive mindset as you trek into the beginning of the rest of your life.
Within the first few hours of my arrival onto campus for my freshman year, while my parents still helping me sort through the chaos we unloaded everything from the car into my quaint single room, my designated peer advisor reached out to me to see how move in was going and if there was anything at all she could do to help. Just to provide a little background into what I mean by peer advisor, it is truly an awesome mentorship program within the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. Every freshman is paired up with a volunteer upperclassman who serves as their peer mentor. Peer mentors are there to answer any questions you have over your freshman year, offer any advice they may have or even just help to calm you on your most stressful and overwhelming days. One of the ways that my peer mentor impacted me personally was by helping to pick me up when I needed it the most, reminding me of the life changing roles that nurses play in our world and the impact that I will have after I finish my degree. This mentorship, which began even before I stepped onto Penn’s campus, was only a small indication of all the guidance and support that was to lead me throughout my first year at Penn.
The nursing specific courses that are assigned during your freshman year also ease you into the next four academic years you will encounter. You begin with your fundamental biology and chemistry classes as well as the first of three courses designed to highlight and demonstrate all aspects of nursing. This trilogy of introductory courses gives you an outlook to where this degree has taken people throughout history and where it could and will eventually take you in the future. With each progressive semester, these three courses build off of each other until you can see the entire scope of nursing which you will then take with you and implement into the more practical components of your studies.
This trilogy begins with Nursing 101. As your first glimpse into the true definition of what it means to be a nurse, this course dug deep into the history of nurses, focusing on the pioneers and the core values that the nurses instilled into the earliest days of the profession that still hold true today. For me, this course transitioned nursing from purely a degree to now a tangible profession rooted in the lives of so many before me. I was now part of a profession that came from more than just grades or the amount of facts or figures you could jam into your memory. Rather, it became about people. Not only did this concept make the harder days worthwhile but I started to welcome more challenges.
Nurses are protectors, advocates, alleviators, educators related to the human response of illness or suffering of any kind. Acquiring the skills and expertise necessary to put these various puzzle pieces together is so crucial in order to help someone who is making themselves so vulnerable by basically putting their life in the control of a complete stranger. The School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania shows its students just how much of a privilege it is to be that stranger in the lives of others and they provide you with all the resources and support to get you to this point of confidence where you can be the beacon of hope for the most vulnerable. Already into my second year, I have seen this by visiting the VA Hospital and speaking with the veterans, working with alumni faculty and their patients, and becoming involved with the volunteer work spearheaded by the nursing students throughout the grade levels. So even when the work piles up and the midterms come flying at you and anatomy (more enlightenment on this special course to come) seems to block the light at end of the tunnel, just know, these are four amazing, truly formational years to begin the rest of a rewarding and impactful life if you choose to make it so. It’s all about perspective, and not being afraid to ask for help along the way.