Nursing Students Learn the ABCs of Compassionate Care

By Scott Craig   |   May 3, 2022
Westmont nursing’s inaugural cohort (photo by Brad Elliott)

The inaugural cohort of students has nearly completed their first semester of Westmont’s 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. The intimate class of eight students has been learning on state-of-the-art equipment through a curriculum immersed in the Christian liberal arts. They’re scheduled to graduate in May 2023. 

The ABSN allows someone with a baccalaureate degree to complete the intense education and clinical training to become a registered nurse within 16 months. Nursing students must meet required prerequisites in religious studies, world history and lifespan development in psychology. 

The college, in partnership with Cottage Health, have developed robust and generous scholarships to attract exceptionally qualified and diverse students, with a pathway to career opportunities upon completion of the program. 

In 2021, the college renovated the first two floors of Westmont Downtown, 26 West Anapamu Street, to house the nursing program. 

The small class has offered countless benefits to the students and faculty. “The cohesiveness among students, faculty, and staff has been a blessing,” says Carol Velas, founding director of the nursing program who has served as a registered nurse for 35 years. “It’s nice to get to know each student on a deeper level than we could if the group were larger. As our enrollment grows, we hope to stay connected to the students on this deeper level.”

“I love the fact that we’re a small cohort and such a diverse group,” says nursing student Trisha Beaudin. “I truly feel we’re a team working together to navigate through this accelerated program. We’re learning a tremendous amount of information, and the 16 months are flying by.”

With a focus on compassionate care, the unique liberal arts program blends classes such as Health Assessment, Pathophysiology, and Fundamentals of Nursing with Understanding My Neighbor: Society, Culture, and Health with Blake Kent, professor of sociology, and Nursing and Human Flourishing with Jim Taylor, professor of philosophy.

Students learn state-of-the-art clinical training on mannequins (photo by Brad Elliott)

“Kent provides a broad view of sociological theory applied to caring for diverse populations, while Taylor offers the philosophical perspectives and the conception of nursing as a call to care for vulnerable human beings created in God’s image who experience the pain and suffering that results from living in a fallen world,” Velas says. 

The students are immersing themselves in the community, working at retirement centers, and volunteering for underserved populations. In the first month, Velas and the students joined Santa Barbara’s mayor to provide socks and information to people experiencing homelessness in and around the Westmont Downtown building.

“Students are caring for patients at Samarkand, making a difference in their patients’ lives by simple caring, shaving a male patient, or preparing a foot bath for another,” Velas says.

Other full-time faculty include Lesley Gardia, who teaches Health Assessment and Fundamentals; Annamarie Rivas, assistant program director who teaches the clinical lab for Health Assessment and will lead varying medical/surgical/geriatric courses throughout the program; and Dianthe Hoffman, who teaches pediatrics and nursing research. Becky Love is the skills and simulation coordinator.

The program, which the California Board of Registered Nursing approved in November 2021, is applying for accreditation by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), essential for students interested in continuing their education at the master’s and doctoral levels.

“This program is an amazing addition for Westmont and a huge benefit for our community by educating and training more nurses,” says Beaudin, who graduated from Westmont in the 1980s and is thankful for the opportunity to achieve a lifetime goal of becoming a nurse.

Westmont is now accepting applications for the fall semester that begins August 29. 


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