Shaelyn Atkins of Bremen, Indiana, graduated from the Bethel University Nursing Program at Grace College in May. Now, she works on the pediatrics floor of Memorial Hospital in South Bend as a registered nurse — half of the floor being cancer patients with no immune systems at their defense in the wake of COVID-19. “The job isn’t always easy,” said Atkins. But when you ask this health care professional if she’s found her niche, her answer comes without hesitation: “100%.”
“Every day there are countless events at work that make my heart pitter-patter,” said Atkins. “I have the chance to connect with kids, and it brings me so much joy to see patients who are shy and timid at the beginning of the day giving me high fives or tell me ‘I love you,’ at the end of the day,” she said.
Finding a college with a nursing program and obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing degree were crucial steps for Shaelyn in her journey to becoming the pediatric nurse she is today.
Searching for Colleges with a Nursing Program
Atkins always knew that nursing was the career for her. So when she began looking at colleges, her google search history was always littered with phrases like “colleges with a nursing program,” and “best nursing schools in Indiana.” Large state schools always appealed to her. That is, until she made her way to the best college town in Indiana — Winona Lake.
Over the course of Atkins’ senior year, her family members kept urging her to visit Grace College. “It’s nice and close to home,” they said. “You’ll love the lakeside campus and the safe, tight-knit community,” they said. After several nudges, she reluctantly gave into her family members and scheduled a visit over her fall break. As Atkins stepped into the visitor’s center, she was amazed by the friendly community that met her at the door. As the day went on, Atkins continued to find that everyone at Grace (from the admissions staff, to her student ambassador, to the professors) contributed to this welcoming community that she wanted to become a part of.
But there was a kicker. At the time Grace only had an associate degree in nursing.
Atkins felt at odds inside. Should she settle on an associate degree in nursing in order to be at a Christian college? Or should she continue her search and look for a bachelor of science in nursing degree? Her tension was curbed after she met with the nursing director at the time.
The professor boasted of Bethel University’s 99% NCLEX pass rate and told Atkins that the nursing program was in the process of making a bachelor’s degree in nursing possible at Grace. If the approval went through, Atkins could have the best of both worlds, a degree from a top nursing program in the state AND the Grace College community and campus experience. That was all Atkins needed. She trusted the bachelor’s degree would come through. And so, she applied to come to Grace.
A Top-Notch Bachelor of Science in Nursing
In 2017, a Grace College bachelor’s degree in nursing became a reality. And with the new major came a state-of-the-art nursing wing for Atkins to break in for years of students to come. During Atkins’ junior year, the K21 Foundation donated $150,000 to provide for the purchase of equipment to outfit two simulation labs, a monitoring room, and a debriefing room.
“It was so nice to have a new facility,” said Atkins. “While the sim labs were at first very intimidating, they were an amazing tool to aid us in our education. It was ideal to be able to practice on mannequins with a wide range of virtual symptoms,” she said. Atkins explained that these real-to-life mannequins could breathe, blink, and do just about anything that a human does.
Her excellent classroom experience at Grace was matched by an outstanding clinical experience.
“The chance to observe at state-of-the-art hospitals in Fort Wayne like Parkview Regional Medical Center or Lutheran Hospital was such a privilege. We would drive there once a week my senior year, but the experience made the drive well worth it,” Atkins remarked. It was during her clinical hours that Shaelyn really saw her confidence grow as a nurse.
Because of this practical experience and innovative technology, Atkins contributed to the 100% NCLEX pass rate achieved by the first-ever graduating class of the BSN at Grace.
And last, but certainly not least, were her professors.
“The faculty is amazing,” she boasted. “They really invested in us to make sure we were prepared and felt confident as nurses. I still talk to my professors. They check in on me regularly and give me advice now that I’m in the field.”
That’s the Grace way. Faculty are not just teachers; they are personal and spiritual mentors. In all of Atkins’ classes, her professors encouraged her to write reflective papers on spiritual care. The students were equipped to not just be caregivers of physical bodies, but also of hearts, minds, and souls. This has had very practical implications on Atkins’ job today.
Landing a Job During A Pandemic
Although Atkins graduated at a less-than-prime time, (who could have foreseen the pandemic and recession?), she did not have a problem landing a job. And there are multiple things to credit for that.
- Atkins is a go-getter. She got her foot in the door at Memorial Hospital her sophomore year of college. As graduation approached, she sought out a supervisor on the pediatric floor and put herself out there.
- Atkins’ bachelor of science in nursing degree helped put her application at the top of the pile. “Graduating with a nursing degree from a Bethel program set me above other applicants from other colleges in the area,” Atkins stated assuredly.
Atkins started her role at the beginning of June. Working on the front lines of a pandemic as a first-year nurse has caused her to think back to what it means to care for children holistically. Atkins said that her floor at the hospital has had a couple of COVID-positive cases which requires her to be “super extra cautious” to keep the cancer patients safe that don’t have immune systems. And in addition to caring for them physically, Atkins is working extra hard to care for patients mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in the midst of COVID.
“It’s been a lot, but I knew that it would be a lot,” she said. “The first year of nursing is going to be hard without a global pandemic. Our professors warned us of this. But all things considered, I felt very prepared for my current position,” she said. — from grace.edu