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Student Thrives in Nursing Courses
Erin Hawley, of Medina, OH, was excited to have a taste of independence and make new friends at Kent State University. But what makes Hawley’s college experience extra special is that she is a member of the first class accepted to Kent State’s Career and Community Studies (CCS) Program post-pilot. Hawley is also the first CCS student to take nursing courses. As a senior, this fall she will continue to learn how to turn her desire to help others into a career.
Kent State’s Career and Community Studies Program is a four-year, non-degree program that requires students to complete 120 credit hours. “This program was designed for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury or autism,” said Jennifer Miller, CCS Career Faculty. “These students are not able to enter college by traditional means because they are not able to pass entrance tests or do not meet the criteria to be a traditional student.” Centered around academics, career development and independent living, these students have the opportunity to continue their education amongst their peers. Hawley is one of 20 students currently enrolled in the program, which can accommodate up to 48 students.
According to Miller, there are six other programs in Ohio similar Kent State’s. However, many of those programs only offer students a choice between limited career tracks, whereas Kent’s program is student-driven. “We have students working in most of the departments on campus,” said Miller. “Creating relationships between the colleges and CCS has opened the door for our students to be able to try out classes and see what they like.” When Hawley expressed an interest in becoming a nurse assistant, CCS reached out to the College of Nursing to make her dream a reality.
Following a meeting with College of Nursing Dean Barbara Broome, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, and a discussion with Tracy Motter, DNP, RN, associate dean for undergraduate programs, Hawley was placed in the same nursing classes and labs as the other students. As this was the first time the College of Nursing had accepted a CCS student, faculty who worked closely with Hawley prepared to enter the unknown. “There was a lot of trial and error to see what worked and what did not,” said Ann Marie James, MSN, RN, lecturer. “At first it was challenging for me to get a baseline of her abilities. But Erin is very adaptable, which has been a blessing.”
Support also comes from the academic instructor who accompanies Hawley to class and helps her decide what she wants to try from the syllabus and what assignments might be too much for her. “Writing a 20-page paper may be too much, but she might decide she’s going to try for 7 - 10 pages,” said Miller. In class, Hawley practices the same skills and assessments as the other nursing students, just in smaller quantities. “In a short amount of time, she has learned how to take a blood pressure and pulse, use a stethoscope, execute proper handwashing techniques, and how to help patients with their range of motion exercises,” said James.
Other nursing students have begun to recognize Hawley from previous classes and are eager to help her succeed in the program. “I’ve had students email me, knowing Erin was going to go into the next course, inviting her to register for their lab day and time,” said James. Hawley also appreciates the nursing students’ encouragement. “I met another student from Medina and she has really supported me in class. All of the students are very nice.”
Hawley also practices her nursing skills at her practicum location, Stow Glen Retirement Village in Stow, OH. “I’ve worked there since I was a sophomore. I pass out water and make the beds,” said Hawley. “I help residents’ with their lunch bibs and get drinks. I also like visiting with them.”
Throughout this experience, Hawley and the College of Nursing have opened the doors for future possibilities, inspiring other CCS students to try classes in healthcare. “Erin has brought an awareness to the fact that she can learn and do the nursing skills just as well as students without an intellectual disability,” said Miller. “We now have students coming into our program asking if they can do what Erin’s doing. We are thrilled that another CCS student will begin taking a nursing class soon.”
Having the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her cousin, Morgan, who is a nurse, Hawley knows the College of Nursing is where she belongs. “I feel great. I found the right fit for me!” Over the summer, Hawley will have the opportunity to continue practicing her skills at a retirement home in Medina. Although her graduation from CCS is still a year away, Hawley already has a goal in mind. “I want to work as a nurse assistant in a hospital setting like the Cleveland Clinic.”