Experiential learning has always been a key element of a Xavier education. Whether it's in a bank, in a pre-school classroom or on a political campaign, the purpose is the same-to provide opportunities for students to practice the skills of their chosen career so they truly are ready to take their place in the workforce.
It seems to be working. Our students' 97-percent placement rate reflects their success and the value of Xavier's emphasis on learning outside the classroom. Nowhere is this more evident than in the School of Nursing, where students must complete 900 hours of clinical experience before graduation.
Since coming to Xavier, Marisa Pike has had multiple experiences outside of the classroom actually caring for patients. Through the fall of her senior year, she had clinical rotations or practicums in nine different local health care settings.
For her last semester, the Cincinnati native did one 12-hour shift each week for 10 weeks on a critical care telemetry floor at Mercy Hospital Fairfield, where she was mentored for a day by 2015 Xavier nursing graduate Hollis Conners.
She also worked another five weeks caring for assigned patients under the supervision of a nurse preceptor in Labor and Delivery at Bethesda North Hospital. She plans to pursue Labor and Delivery after graduation.
"It was one of my favorite clinicals at (Good Samaritan Hospital)," she says. "Every time I witnessed the birth of a newborn, I truly felt part of a miracle. Being able to support patients through this journey was a blessing and an honor. Seeing that every day would be so fulfilling."
She witnessed the team put a chest tube into a newborn whose oxygen level had suddenly dropped, and watched a nurse soothe a frightened mother by talking her through the epidural and birthing process. She was impressed by how the team collaborated to save the baby, and by the nurse's ability to connect with and build trust in the woman.
"You could just see the fear begin to melt away," she says. "Through her supportive and encouraging presence, the nurse instilled a confidence in the mother that she could make it through."
Assistant Professor Brenda Wiles, RN, says there's a reason Xavier requires more of its students than other nursing programs.
"The overall goal for sending them out is the real-life experience in learning critical thinking," she says. "We have nursing diagnoses where they figure out the top problems for that patient that day and what to do, and they set goals with the patient and if they achieved those goals and why."
To meet the needs of more than 400 nursing students each year, the school has developed partnerships at more than 90 local sites. This year, preceptor nurses were selected as mentors for each of the 107 graduating seniors, supervising them as they cared for patients on their clinical rotations.
"Another advantage is we have a wide range of partners so they get to see the whole spectrum of health care," Wiles says. "By the time they're seniors, they're incorporating all those things and looking at patients from a holistic perspective."
For Marisa, the clinical experiences have been the most valuable of all her nursing education.
"You step into a real-world experience and apply the knowledge learned in the classroom while enriching your level of critical thinking," she says.
"Showing compassion and having an open mind and heart to every patient's story is a skill of nursing Xavier taught me and allowed me to practice in the clinical setting. I find that whether I'm administering an injection or lifting a child's spirit, I strive to embody Xavier's value of providing holistic care by healing the mind, body and spirit.""