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Creighton University honors inaugural class of nursing graduates in Phoenix

The inaugural graduating class of the nursing program at Creighton University’s Phoenix Regional Campus received a warm welcome into the profession during the Nurse Pinning Ceremony Dec. 15 at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

The students earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) after an intense, 12-month accelerated program taught by Creighton University faculty at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. The students gained clinical experience at St. Joseph’s, Maricopa Integrated Health System and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Creighton University College of Nursing Dean Catherine Todero, PhD, RN, FAAN, told the graduates that being part of the very first class of Creighton nurses from the Phoenix-based program is something they should always remember proudly. Creighton University began offering an accelerated nursing program degree in Omaha in 1975.

“I know they will go out there and practice nursing with passion and compassion,” she said.

Although the program is a year for students, the actual planning for the Phoenix program began in 2016, she noted.

“For us, this has been a three-year journey of planning, creating partnerships and gaining state regulatory approval,” Todero said.

During the ceremony, it was noted that several of the graduates have already landed jobs and others were interviewing and engaged in the job search.

“You can always tell a Creighton nurse,” said Creighton University Provost Thomas Murray, PhD, who flew in from Omaha to attend the ceremony. “They are critical thinkers, well-prepared academically and they embrace Jesuit values - it’s part of everything they do.”

A second cohort of nursing students, roughly twice the size of the first class, will graduate in August and a third cohort of 48 students is set to begin in January.

Graduate Sarah McCroy, who was voted Nursing Student of the Year by the faculty, has already accepted a position in Salt Lake City, Utah, in primary children’s care. She credited the program with helping her make the transition from a financial industry consultant to nursing.

“It was an amazing cohort and we became like family who supported each other in what was a challenging year,” she said. “It was challenging but if you were willing to put in the work, it was an awesome opportunity to switch careers.”

For Shaun Stevenson, the program prepared him to delve deeper into medical research, which he will do as he seeks to be a surgical assistant in oncology.

“They really prepare you for research,” he said. “That is the key to be successful in nursing and in the medical field in general.”

In addition to the academic and clinical work, students also took part in community service projects during the year. Nursing faculty member Laura Anderson, who was voted by the students as Nurse Faculty of the Year, led a group of students on service trips to Rocky Point, Mexico, to offer health clinic services.

“Just to be part of the first graduating cohort and to introduce them to critical care and have them fall in love with it was just magical,” she said.

Faculty member Heather Naylor, who received the Excellence in Teaching award from the students, said the ceremony brought her full circle. She graduated from Creighton’s accelerated nursing program in Omaha in 2003. As faculty, she teaches the students in their first semester classes and again at the very end in the final clinical.

“I get them at the beginning when they are just babies and again at the very end when they are ready to leave the nest,” she said. “To see the transformation is amazing.”

To accommodate program growth, current nursing students will move to a temporary location at Park Central mall later this month, which will contain two classrooms and a skills lab.

Earlier this year, the Creighton University announced plans to build a health sciences campus at Park Central in midtown Phoenix. When completed, the facility will include a four-year medical school and nursing, occupational and physical therapy, pharmacy and physician assistant schools, as well as an emergency medical services program.

The facility will accommodate 800 Creighton health sciences students. Plans call for it to be ready in spring 2021.


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