Parkview’s student nurse program doubled in size this year. Here’s why it’s so popular.

In April of 2022, Parkview Health launched an education program designed for aspiring nurses of all experience levels, whether they’re high school students who are still deciding whether they want to become nurses or college seniors who are preparing to graduate and begin their nursing careers. The Parkview Student Nurse Program offers three positions:
  • Student Nurse Assistant (STNA): for people—including high school students 17 and older—with no clinical experience who are considering a nursing degree
  • Student Nurse Technician (STNT): for students already enrolled in a nursing program who have completed the first fundamentals clinical
  • Student Nurse Apprentice (SNAP): for final-year BSN and final-semester ASN or LPN students who are preparing to transition into practice as a registered nurse

In its first year, the Student Nurse Program welcomed 125 students. As its second year begins, the program has 256 students enrolled—and counting. Mary Hunt, supervisor of the Student Nurse Program, regularly receives new inquiries from aspiring nurses who are interested in a position.

“I know students who get started in the program and then go back to their classmates to tell them how wonderful it is,” says Hunt, who has been with Parkview for 28 years in a variety of roles. “There are so many things that are difficult to teach new nurses, and I think when our students’ classmates see how confident and skilled they’ve become through this program, they want to get the same experience.”

One of the most appealing aspects of Parkview’s model is the one-to-one relationship students get to develop with nurse mentors. At every level of the program, students are paired with a mentor who will connect with them and provide insight into the day-to-day responsibilities of the nursing profession. It was part of what drew Bryn Benzing to the program. She joined as a student nurse assistant and recently moved on to the student nurse apprentice role.

“The main thing that drew me to the program was the opportunity to have a nurse mentor who could answer questions and help me learn,” says Benzing. “My mentor and I have worked together for a year now, and we’ve developed a comfort level with each other. I talk to my friends a lot about how much I’ve learned by having this one-to-one relationship with a nurse who really understands what I can do and wants to help me grow.”

Benzing is a student at Valparaiso University, where she’ll start her senior year in the fall. She is originally from Fort Wayne, so she often comes home to fulfill requirements for the Student Nurse Program on her breaks. The program’s flexibility gives her the freedom to complete hours when she can, while still maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

“When we hire students at all three levels, they’re at PRN status—so they can work around their personal schedules and school schedules even if they attend school outside of Fort Wayne,” says Mary Hunt. 

Erin LaCross, Senior Vice President of Nursing Professional Development at Parkview, says the program was intentionally designed to be extremely flexible for students.

“Some organizations require a set number of hours for students to maintain enrollment in a program, but the minimum requirement for these coworkers is 300 hours in a calendar year—which is very manageable for our students,” says LaCross. “We even find that students work more than those 300 hours because they enjoy it.”

Jayce Colclasure is another student nurse apprentice who was part of the Parkview Student Nurse Program’s launch, and he commutes more than an hour to get to Fort Wayne. He’ll graduate from Ball State University in July, and he already knows he wants to continue his career at Parkview.

“Parkview isn’t anywhere close to where I live—but I can’t picture myself working anywhere else,” Colclasure says. “I’ve worked at several other hospitals and health networks through my clinicals, and the relationships at Parkview are just different. It’s easy to make friends no matter what floor you’re working on.”

The Student Nurse Program has played a crucial role in building Colclasure’s skillset and capabilities.

“My confidence has grown by a thousand percent since starting this program,” Colclasure says. “In nursing school, you learn what to do and how to do it—but it’s all in a controlled environment. Being in a hospital is so different. Sometimes a nurse starts to do one thing but has to transition quickly to something else because circumstances can change really fast. This program allows us to respond to events in real-time.”

Benzing says in classroom settings, professors often throw a lot of information at you, but being enrolled in Parkview’s program has allowed her to see that information in action.

“I took pharmacology and fundamentals this spring, and seeing all that information applied in a clinical setting at Parkview was so valuable,” she says. “I saw how to give meds, what to look for when giving meds—that kind of thing. A classroom setting doesn’t allow you to think on your feet, but I’ve seen my nurse mentor thinking on her feet a lot. Developing those critical thinking skills is so important.”

In the Parkview Student Nurse Program, students get work experience outside of their clinical requirements—which makes them even more prepared for their responsibilities on their clinical rotations in nursing school.

“I talk to clinical instructors who are amazed at how comfortable our students are answering call lights and entering patient rooms,” says Mary Hunt.

Another key element of Parkview’s model is its commitment to new nurses when they graduate from college. When students complete the Student Nurse Program and transition to a long-term career at Parkview, they join a nurse residency program that supports their development.

“Our nurse residency program follows nurses for the first 12 months of their career,” says Erin LaCross. “All newly graduated nurses are required to go through it, so when our student nurses are hired, they’re not just out on their own. The residency program is accredited and covers specific topics that help them transition into independence as a nurse.”

The Student Nurse Program’s first cohort of student nurse apprentices contained 40 students—39 of whom pursued full-time nursing positions at Parkview.

“We have a 98% conversion rate from student nurse apprentice to Parkview nurse,” says LaCross. “The nurses who stayed with us found a specialty they love and a team who invests in them. I think that’s a huge testament to the way Mary mentors our students and cares about them individually.”

Mary Hunt works with all the program’s incoming students—and anyone with an interest in nursing is welcome.

“Students don’t have to be committed to a career in nursing to start this program,” says LaCross. “The student nurse assistant role is a great opportunity to figure out what nursing is and determine whether you really do want to be a nurse. It’s a safe program to explore and figure yourself out. It’s so great to be able to help young people refine what they want to do as they pursue a career—and it’s okay if they start the program and end up deciding they don’t want to be a nurse.”

While some students decide to pursue other paths after learning more about a nursing career, a majority of those involved in the Student Nurse Program become more committed to their chosen vocation—and more committed to Parkview Health. 

“This program has taught me that if I want to be a nurse anywhere, it’s at Parkview,” says Bryn Benzing. “After seeing how close the nurses are on my floor, I want to have that relationship with my own coworkers when I work at Parkview. Through the Student Nurse Program, I’ve been able to start the process of being a nurse early—and it has totally confirmed for me that this is the profession I want to be in.” 

If you or someone you know is considering a career in nursing, the Parkview Student Nurse Program offers a safe environment to learn more about the profession, grow your skillset and gain confidence in preparation for clinical and full-time work. To learn more, visit the program page.

This article was made possible by underwriting from Parkview Health.
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