Amanda Miller ’20 had such an amazing college experience at Immaculata University that when she graduated, she wished she could do it all over again. Her wish came true as the biology graduate came back to her alma mater to get a second-degree accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), which she completed in 2022.
Miller’s decision to earn a second degree from Immaculata was based on several factors, including the fact that the tuition for Immaculata’s B.S.N. program was the lowest among her top choices. Being able to take classes in person, starting the program in January and being able to complete her degree in 15 months also factored into her decision. Miller also appreciated that the faculty helped secure clinical sites for the students, whereas many other programs require the students to find their own clinical placements.
But, perhaps the most important aspect was that she knew the faculty and felt comfortable at Immaculata.
“All my professors wanted me to succeed,” Miller stated. She acknowledged she arrived as a shy freshman who was unsure of her potential and what career she wanted to pursue. She credits James Murray, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, with pushing her to be confident in her abilities and recognizing her gift for connecting with people.
“Freshman-year me is totally different from where I am now,” Miller said. “I never thought that I would be able to hold my own in an emergency room and be able to run a code and know what to do. I always thought I would freeze under pressure, but these professors were kind of pushing me to pursue what they knew I was meant to do. It allowed me to see that I am capable of doing these things and capable of being a leader, which is something I never thought I was.”
She excelled in her biology classes and was invited to join the Immaculata Honor Society. Miller became an active member of the student body, serving as chair of New Student Orientation and a resident assistant. She was also an integral member of the field hockey team, where she served as captain.
Her decision to start her education as a biology student instead of a nursing major ended up providing Miller with invaluable skills that many four-year nursing students don’t possess. “I took medicinal chemistry, molecular biology—everything just makes so much sense in my brain,” she said. “I feel like I have such a good understanding of these medications and how they are going to affect people just from having that strong science background.”
Although it had only been a little over six months from her first college graduation to when Miller enrolled in the second-degree nursing program, she had a different—but equal—experience. She explained that as a traditional-aged undergraduate student, she lived all four years on campus and was heavily involved in sports and campus activities and organizations, which wasn’t the case when she returned for her nursing degree. However, her nursing classes helped her connect with her classmates and professors.
For ABSN, Miller conducted her clinicals at Mercy Fitzgerald, Brandywine, Paoli, Riddle and AI DuPont hospitals. “When I was at Paoli, we did three 12-hour shifts for around the last six weeks to kind of get the feel for what it’s going to be like being a real nurse,” Miller said. Additionally, she worked part-time in the trauma unit at Christiana Hospital to gain further experience.
“I loved the [nursing] program,” she stated. She appreciated that the courses were very structured, and the syllabus was comprehensive, which allowed her to feel comfortable knowing what her next assignments were. Miller also gave the highest praise for the faculty, who supported the students throughout the 15-month program. This support included providing students with study halls and mirroring test outlines in the style of the nursing board exam, the NCLEX. What helped even more, was an NCLEX prep program built into the curriculum. All of these measures support Immaculata’s extremely high first-time pass rate for the NCLEX exam, most recently at 97.92%, which is above the national average.
“I took my boards in 20 minutes and passed in the minimum amount of questions,” she said as she explained that the number of exam questions range from 75 to 145, and she passed with only having to answer 75 questions. “I was very prepared. Immaculata definitely made sure we knew what we were doing,” she added.
Since graduating with her ABSN, Miller has been working in the emergency room at UPMC Memorial Hospital in York, Pa and is earning her master’s degree in family nurse practitioner. After she graduates from York College, Miller plans to continue working in the emergency room through their fellowship program. Beyond the immediate future of working in the ER, Miller is exploring her options of opening her own family care practice and may pursue her Doctor of Nursing Practice, which could lead to a teaching career.
Reflecting upon her education, beyond the books and exams, Miller appreciates the person-centered, holistic approach the Immaculata faculty used to treat patients and education their students. She realizes that it is helping her to ask the right questions, so she can access the patients better.
“I feel like I always have my best days when I need them the most. Like when I am feeling burned out and exhausted, I always get that one patient that kind of turns it around and makes me realize how much I love my job.”