Nursing Alumna Boosts Student Engagement

Nursing Alumna Boosts Student Engagement

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Jessica Parris ’13 decided to become a nurse after spending seven weeks in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with her daughter, born at 28 weeks.

“It made me realize how much I was interested in women’s health and sciences,” Parris says. She chose CUI's Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program because of its holistic, compassionate approach to patient care, and its accelerated, work-friendly schedule. She enjoyed it so much that she now organizes alumni events, and serves on the alumni board.

“Concordia invested a lot in me, and I am a very big cheerleader of Concordia’s program,” she says. “I believe in the kinds of nurses we are putting out. I love the fact that I’m a ‘Concordia nurse.’ There’s a solidarity in this program.”

Parris entered CUI’s program with three kids and a full-time job. “It was incredibly difficult, but worth it,” she says. “It’s an immersive experience. We’re eating, breathing and living nursing for that full year. There is an intensity to it.”

When she graduated in 2013, she sent an email to the director and expressed interest in putting together a panel of alumni to speak to current students. That led to a panel of recent graduates answering students’ questions about passing boards, getting jobs, interviews and more.

I love that I’m a 'Concordia nurse.' There’s a solidarity in this program.

“We got a good group to talk to us,” Parris says. “I found it so helpful and decided in that moment that we need to do better at connecting our alums to current students. It was a huge resource that was untapped.”

Working with alumni director Tamara Sauer ’02, Parris used Concordia’s new networking platform CUI Connect to create an online gathering place for CUI nurses and nursing students.

“You can sign in and search the name of a hospital. Anybody who is affiliated with that hospital and is an alum will pop up. Almost everyone who uses the platform has opted to be a mentor and is willing to open doors, or answer questions, or have coffee,” Parris says. “It’s an easy way for people to find informal mentorship.”

For her own part, upon graduating Parris found her “dream job” at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange in labor and delivery— the same hospital and unit where she was a patient and started her journey into nursing.

“I felt like it was meant to be my job,” she says. “It’s all been a God thing. It’s been incredible to work at St. Jo’s. God has been very faithful.”

Parris continues to organize alumni panels for soon-to-be graduates at CUI to ask questions and feel supported by alums. She has served on the alumni board since 2015, and eventually hopes to organize mission trips and projects for CUI nursing alumni.

She also teaches at CUI as an adjunct OB clinical instructor.

“I’m always impressed by the students, how quickly they pick it up, and how sensitive they are,” she says. “They are very compassionate care-givers. That stands out with Concordia. My hospital likes to hire CUI nurses. There’s a definite appreciation in the health care community for the types of nurses we are producing.”

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