Immaculata’s Accelerated Nursing Program Enables Prior College Grad to Refocus Her Career
Watching a patient use his inhaler, Meredith Katona ’23 noticed that he exhaled too quickly. She realized he didn’t know he was supposed to pause to let the medicine reach his lungs. So she taught him to breathe more slowly for maximum benefit.
“No one ever explained it to me,” he told her, though he had been using an inhaler for a while.
“I don’t even know how many times he thanked me for that—it was a lot!” Katona reflected, adding that her patient was discharged later that day from the hospital where she was doing a clinical rotation. “It was a small thing, but it makes a difference, because now, maybe he’ll get improved relief.”
During clinical experiences like this one for her second-degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Katona enjoyed talking with patients and forming a connection with them. Her first bachelor’s degree is in English, which, while not a typical major for aspiring nurses, has nonetheless honed her communication skills to provide the kind of health education she gave this patient.
After completing her English degree, Katona shadowed a variety of medical professionals to explore different health care careers and settled on nursing. Nurses are the “first line of defense,” she said. “They’re the ones who are with the patients the most, so they’re learning the most about what the patients are experiencing.”
Katona was also drawn to nursing because of the range of specialties and career options she can pursue. “We’ll always need nurses, and you’re never not going to have a job,” she said. She knew Immaculata’s nursing programs had a strong reputation and enrolled in the 15-month accelerated B.S.N. program for students like her who have a bachelor’s degree in another field.
The program has been intense for Katona and her classmates. “But we all find a way. You can do more than you think you can,” she said. She will graduate from the program on May 14.
She appreciated the engaging teaching style of Assistant Professor Suzanne Wurster, Ph.D. “I always knew, going to her class, that I was going to learn the information I needed to prepare for an exam. That helps to decrease test anxiety,” Katona said. “It’s not just what you actually learn in class, but then it’s the applying of that information. … Even though you may think you understand the material, whether you pass the test is a different thing.”
Several other professors have helped Katona apply her knowledge and exercise her nursing skills during clinical rotations. “Professor Danielle Downing was a mentor to me,” Katona said, adding that Downing helped her increase her confidence during two clinical courses. “She always wanted her students to do the absolute best they could and gave us so much encouragement and opportunities to learn and grow.”
Katona wants to challenge herself to keep growing by working in a fast-paced critical care setting. She was encouraged when Wurster confirmed that a place such as the intensive care unit would be a good fit for her. After gaining more experience, she wants to become a nurse practitioner, possibly specializing in the growing field of mental and behavioral health. “It requires a complex understanding of medicine and people,” she said. “That makes each day really interesting.”
Although the excitement of complex care appeals to her, Katona doesn’t overlook the value of simple gestures. During her rotations, she asked patients if she could grab them anything and inquired about visits from their family members. She wanted them to feel like more than “just a body in a bed,” she said.
“I’ve had many patients tell me, ‘Thank you for spending the time with me and getting to know me. You’re going to be such a great nurse!’” she said. “It’s so great to hear that.”