Dressed in green scrubs and white sneakers, Luke Stokes enters the seven-bed medical-surgical wing and prepares for surgery.
Stokes is not at a hospital and hasn’t even graduated from nursing school. His patient is a fully interactive, computerized mannequin.
He is at the University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies’ Simulation Academy at the Coral Gables campus. The high-technology labs are one way the nursing school helps prepare future healthcare providers for real-life situations.
“The simulation labs are really high tech,” Stokes said. “It’s a really nice experience working a simulator before working with a patient.”
Since 1948, the nursing school has trained students and was the region’s first baccalaureate nursing program.
Fifty years later, the school includes 400 nursing students and 83 health science students.
“There’s never been a better time to become a healthcare professional,” Nursing School Dean Nilda Peragallo said. “Health-sector jobs are experiencing tremendous growth, and the work is varied and exciting.”
Classes are designed to be exciting as well, according to Peragallo. For every one hour of class, students are required to complete four hours of clinical work.
Students can also take advantage of clinical experiences at the University of Miami network of hospitals, including Jackson Memorial, Holtz Children’s Hospital and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Peragallo said that academically it can be intense, even for the average incoming freshman with a weighted 3.7 GPA and an average 1260 SAT score.
“Expect to be challenged,” Stokes said. “They don’t take it easy as far as academics, and they really push critical thinking.”
Accelerated nursing students like Stokes and Xochilt Juidarrma have already earned a bachelor’s degree in subjects other than nursing, which allows students to obtain a baccalaureate nursing degree in a year.
In the accelerated program, the curriculum is streamlined, but Juidarrma looks at the bright side.
“If you get past the first semester, it gets easier,” she said.
Nursing school students have the opportunity to volunteer in community outreach programs such as learning sessions in which they present healthcare information to more than 30 University of Miami food service and cleaning staff members.
Topics, chosen at the suggestion of the audience, vary from year-to-year and detail different forms of cancer – from colon, breast to prostate – as well as diabetes and hypertension.
Associate Professor Rosemary Hall, who designed a community health course, guides the student volunteers through the learning sessions.
“They love doing it because it’s for wellness,” she said. “It also allows individuals to be motivated and develop presentations and present them to people they don’t know. It’s a nice piece to put on their resumes.”
The nursing school websites states that 100 percent of the school’s B.S.N. students find secure employment by the time they graduate.