When it comes to getting her nursing degree, nothing is going to stop Erin Griffin ’10. She has all the confidence that comes from knowing you’re on the right track. And Griffin is on the right track.
She proved this in October when she saved the life of a patient while on a clinical at the West Haven Veterans Hospital. On a routine visit with a veteran, Griffin and partner John Apinis ’10 immediately noticed that something was wrong – the patient’s mouth was clenched, his face was purple, and his pulse was alarmingly slow.
While Apinis activated the emergency response for help, Griffin stayed cool-headed and acted swiftly, applying the CPR skills she picked up in Fairfield’s program just months earlier. With poise and focus, she administered a simple maneuver she calls a “jaw thrust” to open his airways, allowing him to take the breaths needed until the emergency crew arrived.
How did the experience affirm Griffin’s decision to become a nurse? “I realized I wasn’t going to run away in an emergency. I acted intuitively, saving my emotional response until after it was all over,” says Griffin. “This was an important moment for me – to know I can be useful, to know I’m going to be a competent nurse some day.”
It’s also clear she’s on the right track because only three weeks after being involved in a life and death situation, she was in another one, and still she’s determined to move forward with the program. This time, her life was in danger as a truck rammed into her 2007 Chevrolet Aveo, totaling the car and leaving Griffin with a half swollen face.
“I’m not thrown by any of this,” says Griffin. “I had to miss my first two medical-surgical clinicals, which was hard for me. But my professors said don’t worry, you take care of yourself right now, we’ll take care of the hours later.”
Griffin was attracted to Fairfield University’s School of Nursing, Second Degree Accelerated Bachelors of Nursing Program because of several factors. Among them were:
- A recommendation by a friend who works at the Southern Central Connecticut Visiting Nurse Association. The word was that Fairfield’s facilities, faculty, and the School’s reputation were all top notch.
- A personal tour by Carole Pomarico, Adult Program Director, of the campus and the facilities.
- A well-paced, 15-month program that was “doable,” compared to the 12-month accelerated programs she found elsewhere.
- A 100% student pass rate of the NCLEX-RN licensure exam, pointing to the strength of a Fairfield education.
Once here, Griffin found that the philosophy of Fairfield’s School of Nursing resonated deeply with her, as “it sums up how nursing should ideally be pursued – as an intersection between personal morals, social and global responsibility, and the pursuit of excellence through evidence-based practice and ongoing research.”
Griffin further explains, “Any healthcare provider in today’s world has a moral and social responsibility to advocate for the best healthcare they can for their patients. Our role is to put the patient first, do best by them, taking into account their background, their culture, their religion. That’s what Fairfield’s mission is all about, and what I want my nursing career to be about too.”
The Value of Clinicals
Griffin puts this philosophy into practice twice a week at her clinicals, which are eight-hour shifts intended for students to apply their nursing skills and acquire independence. Clinical focuses include geriatrics, mental health, wellness, and medical-surgical, and after each shift students meet to share experiences with each other and a seasoned faculty member.
After her pivotal experience at the West Haven VA Hospital, it was Dr. Doris Lippman, a veteran herself and a long-time veteran advocate, who helped her debrief. “One of the most important aspects about the clinicals is having the opportunity to talk about them afterwards with someone who’s been there and done that,” says Griffin. “You’re encountering new experiences every time and sometimes you don’t know how to act. It’s so important to have someone knowledgeable and available like Dr. Lippman to help you sort things out.”
Paths to a Nursing Career
The community aspect of the undergraduate program has also been a high point in Griffin’s Fairfield experience. She has approximately 45 classmates, all who are “so enthusiastic and bring something different to the table.” The nursing students hail from a wide array of academic and career backgrounds, including biology, business, finance, journalism, advertising, and psychology.
Griffin herself received a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001. “From 22 to 28 I had a change of heart,” she explains. “In high school I would do anything to get out of a science class, now I’m so interested in everything to do with science and medicine and pathophysiology.” Griffin believes that for many, 18 years old is too young to know what you really want to do with your life. In her case, she always loved reading and writing so she pursued an English degree because no one challenged her otherwise.
But her interest in helping others hands-on has been a thread throughout her life as well. The daughter of two pediatricians who strongly encouraged volunteerism, Griffin volunteered at a crisis nursery and then at a cancer care center as a teenager. “I didn’t know when I was young that I wanted to be a nurse,” she says, “but I would go home at night knowing I did good that day, that I helped someone, and that was a great feeling.”
Staying On the Right Track
Reflecting on her two recent near-death experiences, Griffin comments, “Everything happens for a reason. I’m meant to be where I am and continue with this nursing program that I love.” As for her courage and composure in aiding a failing veteran patient that fateful day in October, she says, “That’s what we’re being trained to do. In situations like I was in, our skills are going to back us up. In the end, it’s the confidence in what you’ve learned that will get you through. I have no doubt that anyone else in my class would have done the same.”
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