TJ Young doesn’t like this question. Not because he doesn’t have an answer, but because he has a few answers—and they’ve changed over time.
“The reason I went to Xavier my freshman year is not the reason I stayed for the years following,” he says. “I went because I got accepted directly into the nursing program, and the NCLEX pass rate was very high. I stayed because I realized I was getting much, much more than just a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.”
Young, a 23-year-old Xavier graduate from Ironton, Ohio, is the son of two nurses, and he graduated with a nursing degree in 2015. He now works in the surgical intensive care unit at Cabell Huntington Hospital in West Virginia, and he credits Xavier with teaching him how to be a nurse in the real world.
“My mother and father are both nurses, so I'm sure that had something to do with the initial interest in the profession,” he says.
“But there’s something special about the relationship a nurse forms with the patient and their family members. What I’ve learned through undergrad and in this first year in critical care is that nursing requires a solid knowledge base of the sciences, but also an ability to read patients and respond to unspoken needs, to create a trusted bond with them during moments of uncertainty and vulnerability.”
This was the Xavier difference, he says. He learned that nursing was more than just a scientific world. It was a world of relationships, of empathy, of communication.
His real education began just after fall break of his freshman year. He was failing professor William Anyonge’s anatomy and physiology class.
“I was in his office every single day, just grilling him about the lectures,” Young says. “After a few of our sessions, he looked me in the eye and told me he was happy to help, but that he wasn't going to ‘spoon-feed me answers,’ and that if I wanted to be successful, I was going to have to put in the work.”
Anyonge told Young that if he wanted to be a great nurse, he would have to learn to critically think and not rely on a book or someone else to give black and white answers.
“I realized I wasn't being taught what to think, but instead I was being taught how to think,” he says. “Anyonge and I developed a great relationship after that, and I’d visit him in his office from time to time just to talk. He definitely made a huge impact on me and inspired me to become a much better student.”
And it’s made Young a better nurse.
“With the curriculum Xavier offers its students,” he says, “the critical thinking skills graduates have the opportunity to develop can really set them apart from other recent college graduates.”