By: Cristina Ficklin, Contributing Writer
The UNF School of Nursing placed in the top 10 at the 59th Annual National Student Nurses Association Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.
UNF was the only Florida university to receive this recognition at the convention, which place April 6-10, and the School of Nursing received the Stellar School Chapter Recognition.
The Stellar School Chapter Recognition is given to schools that demonstrate and exemplify leadership as well as professionalism among the nursing students, said Dr. Judy Comeaux, a UNF assistant nursing professor.
The recognition holds for five years, after which the nursing school will have to apply for the recognition again.
“It makes me proud when I see our students represent UNF really well,” Comeaux said.
President of the UNF Student Nursing Association Harris Zeliff also attended the convention.
“It is an amazing accomplishment for UNF SNA, the School of Nursing and UNF,” he said. “It shows the dedication of the students, faculty and staff to professional nursing.”
In order to qualify for the recognition, the nursing program must meet specified requirements.
Through an in-depth application, nursing students must show they are involved in their communities and NSNA chapters. They must also prove they are demonstrating leadership and creating posters — presentations of the results of the students’ projects.
The program must have been applying for awards for the past five years.
To be eligible for NSNA membership, students must be registered in a nursing or pre-nursing program. Once they have been accepted into the NSNA, students automatically join the Student Nurses Association at the state and local level.
The faculty must show it is involved in organizations, such as NSNA, and it is leading their students by example, Comeaux said.
The school of nursing had three delegates who presented six posters at the convention.
The nursing program is involved in several community projects, one of which is the Panda Project. In this unique project, nursing students raise funds to buy toys, books and games to fill the “Panda Box” for pediatric patients. It is meant to reduce the patients’ fear and anxiety.
SNA members also support charities in their projects. They support the American Cancer Association, American Heart Association and others at the local level.
The nursing students also display community involvement in their home bases, which are assigned to students at the beginning of the program. They provide services that address the health needs of the community that does not have access to healthcare. An example of their community involvement is the partnership with the Pine Forest neighborhood.
“Some schools require NSNA participation for credit,” Comeaux said. “Our students do this on their own time, in addition with their coursework.”
To help offset the costs, the students apply for the Charles and Doris Nevaiser Endowed
Nursing Scholarship. Every student writes an essay on how going to this particular convention would influence their nursing career and promote leadership skills. It awarded each student $1,000.
“With plane tickets, rental cars, gas and other expenses, we probably wouldn’t have been able to go to Utah without this scholarship,” said Maria Aguirre, a UNF nursing student.
The nursing school has a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs and is fully accredited by the Florida Board of Nursing and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
The nursing program receives about 1,800 applications for Summer and Fall semesters, said UNF Nursing Admissions Coordinator Beth Dibble. Along with the application, students must take the Test of Academic Skills, have the required prerequisite GPA of 2.9 and interview for the seats in the program.
With graduation around the corner for some, students worry about whether they will be able to find a job in the future.
For nursing graduates, jobs are fairly competitive and fill up quickly in regards to the Northeast Florida area, Comeaux said. However, if recent graduates are willing to be flexible in location and area of expertise, they can find jobs.
“Getting ready for nationals and completing the application along with my regular coursework was very time consuming,” Aguirre said, “but I would do it all over again.”