Nursing Program Graduates Enter the Field Early

Even as a preschooler, Marissa Stelluto knew she wanted to be a nurse.

When her teddy bears got the sniffles, and her Barbies suffered the occasional broken leg, Stelluto was there to fix them. Toy stethoscope in hand, she listened for abnormal rhythms or other signs of something more serious.

Her brother and sister played along, and she learned early that not every superhero wears a cape.

But they do wear a mask.

These days, the 25-year-old has traded in her plastic stethoscope for one made from stainless steel. Scrubs are her uniform; gloves serve as a shield. Stelluto and her fellow nurses are ready to battle an invisible threat, a silent invader that steals the health of its victims they rally to save.

Stelluto is one of 21 Kent State University at Stark nursing students entering the field early to serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 health crisis. Slated to graduate in May, they are being recruited to assist short-handed area hospital and health care facilities.

State boards are on hold – for now. That was the Ohio Board of Nursing’s response to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s declaration that Ohio is in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. Temporary licenses are being issued to graduates, like Stelluto.

“A lot of people might be worried because we are working before passing our state boards,” said Stelluto, who will graduate with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). “But what they must realize is that we’ve developed the critical skills needed through our education. A state examination is simply that – an exam. It doesn’t teach you anything further.

“The program at Kent State Stark is such a great nursing program because you graduate with the skills that you need to begin working on Day One.”

For Stelluto, Day One has already begun. She’s serves as a patient care tech at Aultman Hospital in Canton, where she works directly with nurses to get patients’ vital signs, help them with bathing and feeding, along with assisting when it’s time to discharge a patient.

For all seniors in Kent State Stark’s nursing program, their final semesters are spent in clinical settings, including Aultman, Mercy Medical Center, Heartland Behavioral Health and Akron Children’s Hospital, where they receive hands-on experience to prepare them for their professional careers.

While the students are not fully licensed professionals and are limited in the services that they can perform and provide, they are a huge asset to health care facilities and illness-stricken community members, said Chrissy Kauth, Ph.D., RN, coordinator of Kent State Stark’s nursing program and the campus office of Recruitment and Retention.

“We need more people in health care to help with patients,” said Kauth. “In this pandemic, I’m sure you’ve noticed who the essential people are, they are the people protecting and providing care. We, at Kent State University, prepare the finest nurses to be on the forefront. We have the most phenomenal full-time faculty, all specialists in the area in which they teach. We are blessed to have some of the most amazing equipment, including high-fidelity simulator manikins that enable students to practice critical skills.

“We are so very proud of our senior nurses for all of their hard work and dedication that they’ve shown during this transitional time.”
Stelluto says she is ready. In fact, she’s been waiting her entire life for this moment.

“I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to take care of people,” she said. “Entering the health care profession right now, during an outbreak that occurs once in a century, doesn’t change my desire to work in the field. I go into work every day not knowing what patients could have, so I’m used to taking those kinds of precautions.

“I’m willing to take the risk, after all, that’s the job.”

It’s the one she’s dreamed about since she was a little girl. And while today’s enemy is unlike any that new nurses have ever faced, the care they’ll provide remains unchanged. They suit up: scrubs on, gloves tight, mask in place, to fight another day.

“That’s why we do this,” said Stelluto, “to save lives.”

Learn more about Kent State Stark's nursing program

Kent State University at Stark’s nursing program is part of Ohio’s largest academic program for nursing – the sixth largest program in the nation – educating the majority of Northeast Ohio’s registered nurses. It offers students a comprehensive curriculum, leading edge simulation technology, and valuable clinical experiences with more than 350 clinical partners.

Graduates are in high demand, with most having jobs upon graduation. In fact, more than 40% of the nursing workforce in Northeast Ohio are Kent State College of Nursing graduates. The university’s wide range of nursing programs meet the career goals of students and the growing demand for professionally trained nurses.

Find out more at

Photo caption: Graduating senior, Marissa Stelluto, provides care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

POSTED: Friday, April 24, 2020 01:29 PM
Updated: Monday, February 06, 2023 10:26 AM
Melissa Griffy Seeton