Jessica with Thelma Hodges and the nursing students.

The Nursing Educator

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Who is a nurse but someone who works day and night, tirelessly devoting themselves to the care of others. It is the individual who expresses empathy while maintaining emotional stability and who understands that sickness and injury never take a holiday. Jessica Palumbo, Hodges’ director of nursing, is all too familiar with the demands of the nursing field, which is why she is taking her 36 years of experience as a registered nurse and helping to grow the next generation through Hodges’ Bachelor of Science in nursing program.

The program was developed cognizant of recommendations of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing (2010), which acknowledges the need for the nursing profession to take a leadership role to meet the demands of our dynamic health care system. The report projected the percentage of nurses with baccalaureate degrees to increase from 50 to 80 percent (80/20) by 2020.

Jessica and a nursing student in Hodges University's nursing lab.

Jessica and a student in Hodges University’s nursing lab.

With this knowledge, Hodges’ School of Health Sciences faculty explored the possibility of offering a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) program, which launched its first cohort in January 2018. This new program, built from the ground up, is what Palumbo found to be most exciting when she joined Hodges’ nursing faculty in October 2017.

“When I accepted the faculty position, I was so excited to be a part of a brand new BSN program and help build it from ground level, structuring it the way we wanted it,” she said.

Earning her associate degree in nursing from Edison Community College (ECC) in 1982, she spent the next 23 years working in various levels of nursing in Naples, Florida, and her hometown of Brooklyn, New York. From staff nurse on the medical-surgical unit to orthopedic charge nurse, Palumbo built upon her expertise with each new position; however, she wanted more.

“Back then, there wasn’t a major push for nurses to earn their BSN as it was viewed as a degree you needed only if you wanted to teach,” she said. Undeterred by those who said a BSN was not necessary, she enrolled at Nova Southeastern University and earned a BSN in 2007, and while working on her bachelor’s degree, she continued to work as a registered nurse (RN) on the neuroscience unit at Naples Community Hospital (NCH).

It was during this time Palumbo caught what she calls the “education bug,” and began teaching clinicals and labs as an adjunct to first-year nursing students at ECC, a position she held until 2013 while completing her master’s degree in nursing education from Walden University.

“My daughter was actually the one who encouraged me to go on and get my doctorate, saying, ‘What’s another two years, mom,’” she said. So, Palumbo continued on her educational path and earned a doctorate in nursing practice from Walden University in 2015.

Hodges' nursing student in the Hodges University nursing lab.

Students learn with state-of-the-art technology in Hodges’ nursing lab.

Throughout the course of her educational journey, Palumbo continued to work at NCH; however, once she completed her doctoral degree, she joined a team of NCH cardiac educators on a research project where she served as the disease-specific nurse researcher. The team worked for two years before the research was discontinued and Palumbo found herself contemplating the idea of either returning to the nursing floor or entering academia.

“I started looking around in the area and discovered Hodges was hiring for a faculty position, so I called the human resources (HR) director. Next thing I knew, I had an interview with the [former] director of nursing, dean of the School of Health Sciences, the provost and a member of HR and shortly after, they offered me the job,” she explained.

Arriving only months prior to the launch of the university’s first cohort of nursing students, Palumbo went on to accept the director of nursing position in May 2018 and is already excited to see how the program will grow over the next few years.

Hodges’ nursing program is designed to hold a maximum of 24 students, so interested individuals must go through a rigorous selection process. Not only must students complete their pre-requisites in health sciences, they must submit a secondary application for the nursing program. The student must meet the GPA requirement and pass the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam before coming in for an interview and submitting an essay.

“I have been in many schools, and the learning in our program is just top-notch. Students will receive a level of personalized attention they cannot get anywhere else.” – Jessica Palumbo

The BSN is offered in four 15-week semesters and is designed as a hybrid program where students spend time in the simulation lab as well as studying at home.

“Our students use e-books with access to online simulations, so not only are they receiving hands-on experience in our state-of-the-art nursing simulation lab, but they continue at home through the use of the online simulations,” Palumbo explained.

Using books created by Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI), students are provided the complete ATI series (ATI Complete) to help prepare for The National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam after graduation. In addition to the books, students also receive an ATI consultant who assists them in preparation for the exam.

“The field of nursing these students are entering is much different than when I entered. Technology has changed everything. We no longer paper chart everything, as it is all electronic, and the responsibility of nurses has grown,” she said.

Looking at society today, it is easy to see how the demand for nurses continues to grow. According to Palumbo, there is a shortage of licensed practicing nurses, and if you consider supply and demand, the supply is low because of the extensive training students must go through in order to become licensed. The two-year degrees are phasing out. However, there is also the growing issue of an unhealthy society.

“Medicine in this country was all about treating symptoms and diseases and taking care of that disease and chronic condition. Now, our focus is on prevention and promoting wellness,” she said. “Now, when we get a patient, we have to educate.”

This type of education is just another aspect of Hodges’ nursing program, which Palumbo is committed to building with qualified students and faculty.

“I have been in many schools, and the learning in our program is just top-notch. Students will receive a level of personalized attention they cannot get anywhere else.”