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Adult Learner Pursues New Nursing Career to Connect With Patients

Man in hallway, wearing blue scrubs.

Tony Pisciella ’23 watched his wife, an intensive care unit nurse, as she checked on her patients.  She gently wiped their faces and talked to them, even if they weren’t responsive.

“Even though she was extremely tired after her shifts, she really felt like what she was doing made a difference,” Pisciella said.

Seeing how rewarding her work was, Pisciella shadowed her when he was considering a career change. He had earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and spent nearly 10 years in a few different positions in the business world. “The jobs were nice, and the people were great; it’s just I didn’t feel like I was doing something that really mattered to me,” he said.

He wanted to connect with people the way his wife did, so he decided to return to college for an  accelerated second bachelor’s degree in nursing. He wondered if he was up to the challenge because he had been out of school for a while. “I wasn’t as studious the first time,” he said. “I was very nervous about it.” But his wife fully supported his choice to study nursing.

Pisciella researched local Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs and contacted Immaculata. Immaculata’s admissions staff answered his questions and outlined the prerequisites he needed, mostly science courses, which were just $250 per credit. “I felt like the pathway was so clear. I felt like I had that one-on-one attention,” Pisciella reflected.

He enrolled at Immaculata in 2020. After completing the prerequisite coursework, Pisciella began the B.S.N. program. “It goes zero to 60, day one,” he said. He worked to improve his study habits and attended extra study sessions held by his professors to avoid falling behind. “I didn’t expect to have that kind of support,” Pisciella said. “They bend over backward for us. And I think that seeing their excitement in our little successes helps push me over to that next test, like, ‘You know what, it was cool to be celebrated like that. I’m going to study just as hard next time.’”

After an injury, Pisciella took a year off from the program to undergo surgery and recover. During the few months before he started classes again, one of his professors recommended that he work as a hospital technician. He worked in the emergency department and supported nurses by drawing patients’ blood, putting in IVs, taking EKGs and assisting with other tasks. “I got great experience and got the flow of the hospital,” he said.

When he returned to the program, Pisciella’s professors welcomed him back and introduced him to his new classmates, building connections like those he previously had with students who graduated. “I was nervous about returning to school after my injury. The students and staff made my transition back into the program feel so natural,” Pisciella reflected.

Pisciella also created connections with patients. On his first day of a clinical rotation on a medical-surgical unit, he spent time getting to know a patient beyond the basic information listed on the man’s chart. Pisciella learned about his history, his illness and simple things Pisciella could do to make him feel a little better. “This is definitely where I belong, creating that kind of connection,” Pisciella reflected.

As he progresses through additional clinical rotations, Pisciella is pleased with his growing ability to think clinically and anticipate patients’ needs. When he graduates this May and passes the licensure exam, he will begin his nursing career in the intensive care unit. “I will be there as patients go through some of their most challenging times,” he said. “If I can be that steady hand for them and an advocate for them, that’s why I ultimately wanted to be a nurse.”

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