By Yulisbeth Rojas - The mid-October breeze outside of Passaic County Community College was already signaling the close arrival of winter. Showing up 20 minutes early at the nursing office to meet with Dr. Donna Stankiewcz, the Associate Dean for nursing and health sciences, I was quickly greeted by Mrs. Washington, one of the medical secretaries. “Do you have an appointment?” she impatiently asked indicating the tight schedule. “Yes!” I answered abruptly, realizing I would be waiting those 20 minutes until my scheduled appointment. Dr. Stankiewcz is one of the educators who can answer any question about the nursing program. She is a chairperson and has been at PCCC for some time. As I stepped inside Dr. Stankiewcz’s office, you can see all kinds of paperwork and two bookcases filled with books of inconsistent dimensions. “Give me a second Hon, I’ll be right with you,” she says as she types a brief email. Her short blond hair, piercing blue eyes and white coat could intimidate anyone but her pleasing smile and exuberant personality made for an easygoing conversation. Managing the nursing department is not smooth ride but Dr. Stankiewcz can handle it with the help of her colleagues. Her main role at PCCC is to make sure the curriculum is the best that it can be while covering all the requirements to obtaining a licensure in nursing. She explains that this year the college is accommodating 198 students. From time to time that number can reach 225. Why that number changes each year she explains is because, while most nursing students have a goal working as a nurse not all have been exposed to a hospital. From things that they might see or procedures they might need to perform. When they start their clinical they realize it is not something they would like to do. Another reason for the fluctuating number of students in the nursing program is them having difficulty keeping up with the prerequisite courses. Asking her if she knows of any DACA people who have been part of the program she responds and says that for now no DACA holders can obtain their licensure. As of August 2018 USCIS estimated 699,350 active DACA recipients reside in the United States. Out of those 699,350, 53,000 live in New Jersey. Until this day no DACA holders can enroll in the nursing program. There’s a difference between being allowed to take the exam and actually getting awarded the license she describes. Even a U.S. citizen can take the licensure exam but the state might not give them a license if they fail the background check or exam. Dr. Stankiewcz once again restates that all students who have questions should contact the nursing department and not her personally. “I’m in a million places at a time every day” that’s why any student can make an appointment with the medical secretaries and they will be able to advise anyone. For example one of the biggest misunderstandings she has noticed is that undergraduates write down nursing as a major, but that does not guarantee acceptance in the program, it just means they’ll be taking the prerequisites (sciences and English classes). Even later there is separate application to get into the program that is really competitive. The way the faculty uses a selection point system designed to quantify the admission criteria and provide a point system upon which to rank applicants for admission. Each letter grade has different points as well as their GPA and LPN Mobility exam scores. The points are added and applicants with the higher scores are admitted. As Associate Dean for nursing and health sciences she constantly looks to improve. Delightedly she recalls that they recently started computerized testing. Dr. Stankiewcz goes in detail and points out that the licensure exam is on the computer so from now on students can practice and review, before taking the actual exam.
Changing and adapting the curriculum to current hospital practice is vital to the success of the student’s after graduating. After graduation most student’s apply at hospitals, others work at surgical centers, nursing homes, home care or subacute care. I asked Dr. Stankiewcz if there is any place in particular that she recommends students to apply. She says “The majority apply back where they do their clinical” that is “to be surrounded with familiar faces and course of action.” If you ever wonder if nursing is the right career for you stop by and have a conversation with one of the faculty members or currents students. They can definitely tell you if they would recommend it to other upcoming students. Research is the most important step before making any major decision therefore stay informed and like Dr. Stankiewcz so lovingly suggests “Do well in your classes!”