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First BSN graduates create historic moment for WVU Potomac State College

May 2021 marks a historic moment for West Virginia University Potomac State College as the first cohort of students graduate with Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees.

BSN Program Chairperson April Shapiro, PhD, RN, who also serves as an assistant professor in the WVU School of Nursing program, couldn’t contain her pride as she reflected on the past four years since the nursing program began its journey on the Keyser campus in 2017. 

Shapiro expounded on all the planning and prep work that went into getting everything started, including physical changes to classrooms and labs, along with all the hard work by facilities and maintenance to complete it on schedule, as well as the accreditation and ribbon cutting in 2018.

“Just four short years ago, WVU School of Nursing Dean Tara Hulsey, who serves as vice-president of Health Promotion and Wellness for WVU, and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding to move forward with plans to offer the BSN degree on the Keyser campus.  The hard work of our faculty, staff and students in the nursing department has led to this momentous occasion as the College confers BSN degrees on 21 students,” said PSC Campus President Jennifer Orlikoff, PhD.

“We are so proud of this first BSN graduating class from our Keyser campus and all those who made this a reality,” Dean Tara Hulsey, PhD, said.  “The pandemic confirmed how critical it is to have an educated and skilled workforce of nurses throughout West Virginia, and our BSN program on the Keyser campus is key in making that happen.”

After sharpening their skills in simulation labs, which included hands-on experience with high-fidelity manikins, patient monitors and functioning headwalls, students were ready for real-life experiences, performing their clinicals with a variety of partners in local and regional nursing homes, hospitals and other community settings.  “The growth of the program these last four years would not have been possible without our clinical partners; we are so very grateful to them for all the experiences they provide for our students,” Shapiro said.  

Shapiro noted the changes within the cohort, mentioning the maturity in their nursing assessment as well as their skills and critical thinking ability in a variety of situations.  She also observed the long-lasting friendships made among the students which will provide them with a support system as they enter their chosen profession.

Ashley Thompson, from Moorefield, W.Va., was the first student to apply to the WVU School of Nursing on the Keyser campus and wanted to share these thoughts, “I chose nursing as a career after my father had two heart attacks.  I chose the WVU School of Nursing because I wanted to be part of the Mountaineer family, and I chose the Keyser campus because it’s close to home.” 

Ashley Thompson

Ashley Thompson, a resident of Moorefield, W.Va., was the first to apply to the WVU School of Nursing at Potomac State College in Keyser, W.Va. and is among the first cohort to graduate this spring. Thompson believes she is well-prepared for her new job at a regional hospital because of the guidance and encouragement provided by her professors.

When asked about advice for incoming students, Thompson said, “Don’t give up.  It may be hard and frustrating at times, but you can do this.  Take breaks, reward yourself and make sure you take time to destress. The feeling of accomplishment after your first IV is exhilarating.  And patients thanking you and telling you they’re looking forward to you becoming a practicing nurse gives you the confidence to know that it was worth all the hard work.  In my case, the challenges reassured me that the healthcare field is where I belong.  I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life, and I know being a nurse will do that.” 

Thompson and most of her fellow classmates, have already accepted jobs within local and regional hospital settings and all students have filled out their applications to take their NCLEX-RN exam to be licensed.  They’re currently completing fingerprinting for their background checks and most will be approved and ready to test by June 2021. 

“I am so proud of the work of this first graduating class and all they have accomplished.  Our community is so fortunate to have these wonderful nurses entering the healthcare profession.  It takes a strong team to operate a nursing program.  I am so thankful for the talented faculty and staff on this campus; their experience in teaching and nursing practices are immeasurable.  The community rallies for us, too – I receive phone calls, emails, and questions when I am out and about, as to how the program is going.  I cannot express how blessed I feel to see our BSN program come to fruition,” Shapiro said.