MEPN Students Return, Reunite and Reflect

MEPN Students Return, Reunite and Reflect

One of Dante Segundo’s fondest memories as a Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) student came when he was thousands of miles from the University of San Diego campus.

MEPN reunion

As part of one of the earliest Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science travel groups to Mbarara, Uganda, site of a hospital that the school and other USD faculty and students helped lay the groundwork for, Segundo did health assessments, helped at Holy Innocents Children’s Hospital and worked alongside local healthcare workers. He was learning a lot and, at the same time, awed.

“It was a hands-on education, yes, and it was humbling to walk around in the hospital and the clinics and think ‘but we have so much more to learn.’ But the healthcare workers there were asking us questions because they considered us to be the experts. We’d go in, assess what their needs were and we’d come up with a plan.”

Segundo’s commitment to serve others, especially where thousands of children die from malaria and other treatable diseases, still fuels his passion in his current role as a nursing manager at UC San Diego Health.

“It’s really about giving quality care to the patients,” he said. “We’re human beings taking care of human beings. That’s really what it comes down to.”

Segundo, a 2009 alumnus, is one of several shining examples of a MEPN program that’s been a successful launching pad for nursing professionals since its 2002 inception.

Demanding Program

The demanding 21-month program is open to those with a baccalaureate degree or higher in another discipline, and is designed for those seeking a new career in nursing. Students get a general foundation in nursing and master’s level courses that provide the skills necessary to serve in leadership positions. Upon successful completion, students receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) and are prepared as Advanced Nurse Generalists. Graduates can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nursing (RN) licensure. Graduates can also take the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) certificate exam upon completion of required clinical practice requirements.

Following in the footsteps of the first west coast MEPN program at UC San Francisco, USD’s program has made its own indelible mark in its 15 years of operation.

“The reputation has spread, it’s all word of mouth. We don’t have to advertise the program a lot. We get a lot more out-of-state applicants, particularly from the East Coast and Midwest,” said Sally Brosz Hardin, dean of USD’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.

Started initially as an 11-month program under inaugural program director Karen "Sue" Hoyt, MEPN's growth and importance demonstrates one of many reasons why USD's nursing school is the No. 1 ranked Catholic Graduate Nursing School in the United States is consistently ranked among the top 10 percent in the nation by U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings.

Hardin credits a consistently rigorous curriculum, a student cohort that will have 65 new students this year from an applicant pool of over 400, a program with great resources and the opportunity to learn from top faculty, which are led by MEPN Program Coordinator and Professor Kathy Marsh. The program also has a blog.

MEPN Alumni Reunited

On Feb. 28, the nursing school celebrated the program by hosting its inaugural MEPN alumni reunion. Segundo was among more than 30 MEPN alumni present. The big attraction was to give alumni a tour of the new Betty and Bob Beyster Institute for Nursing Research, Advanced Practice, and Simulation.

The new facility, next door to the main nursing building, drew praise and reminders of just how good current students have it now. Prior to 2015, all MEPN students did classes in the main building, but frequently trekked from it to the far west end of campus to the former simulation lab site.

“That was my exercise, walking up and down that hill,” joked Jessica Salvatore, a 2012 MEPN alumna and current RN in the direct observation unit with Kaiser Permanente.

Salvatore’s nursing commitment was no joke. An aircraft maintenance officer in the Air Force for six years after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in public administration at San Diego State, she got a master’s in aviation management, but found nursing and MEPN to her liking.

“I wanted something where I could still use the people skills, leadership and maturity I gained (in my military job),” she said. “My mom sent me an article about accelerated nursing programs; I looked at it, researched some programs online and found it appealed to me. I like interacting with people on a smaller scale — one-on-one or engaging small groups — and I thought I’d want to have a specific skill set, something that I could be certified in.”

Salvatore was impressed at USD's MEPN open house where she heard truthful, unfiltered answers to questions posed to a panel of then-current students.

Among a cohort of 40, Salvatore said MEPN was a great proving ground to assess her commitment. She went to Uganda, worked at a local community women’s shelter in addition to the demanding curriculum and doing simulation nursing practice with live actors as patients.

“The trainings got the jitters out and gave you a real-life feel. I felt the stakes were high as a student so that when you went to work at a hospital, you’re much better prepared,” she said.

Current Perspective

The reunion gave Hezekia O’Neal and Patrick Humphries, two current MEPN students who will graduate in May, a chance to meet their predecessors.

Their path to the MEPN program differed. O’Neal entered nursing school soon after obtaining his BA in Exercise Science and Bio-Medical Sciences at Northern Arizona University. Humphries has been in the Navy since 2007 after earning a BA in Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech University and in its NROTC program.

Both students look to their experiences as the foundation for their nursing future. O’Neal has done hundreds of hours of clinical work and in January, he went on an immersion and community service trip with fellow MEPN students to India. His goal is to be an intensive care or progressive care unit RN. Humphries got interested in nursing and credits deployments to Bahrain, Australia, Hong Kong, Guam and Singapore for giving him a greater respect and appreciation for different cultures that he’ll encounter daily in nursing. His focus is on a career in emergency, critical care, and wound care nursing.

Humphries and O’Neal are the latest in a long line of MEPN students who’ve experienced the program from the entry-level ranks and are ready to transition into the professional nursing ranks. Humphries offered some thoughts for prospective nursing students to consider.

“You have to evaluate why you’re doing this. Is it the right career field for you? Why do you want to be a nurse? … It’s a huge culture shock. You have a very intimate responsibility and relationship as a student nurse with the patients and the nurses. You are very much hands-on and involved in someone’s personal medical care and that is something to not take lightly.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

For more information about applying to MEPN, a spring open house event is happening Wednesday, March 15, 6 to 8 p.m. in the Hahn School of Nursing (main building), Room 106.

Contact Information

Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science
Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110

Phone: (619) 260-4548

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