Westmont Magazine Nursing Students Learn the ABC's of Compassionate Care

The first cohort of students has checked into Westmont’s 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing 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 unique 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.

“I questioned the need for these courses when I first saw the outline,”says nursing student Trisha Beaudin, who also serves as Westmont assistant athletic director for operations. “Now I have no doubt why they were included. Both of these professors are presenting their two subjects to us with a Christian-based theme that ties the whole program together.”

Westmont nursing students working

“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, but subject to the pain and suffering that is a consequence of our living in a fallen world,” says Carol Velas, founding director of the nursing program.

Nursing students must meet required prerequisites in religious studies, world history and lifespan development in psychology. “The religious studies courses are important to support our compassionate care theory and the holistic care (mind, body and soul) nurses provide,” Velas says.

The small class has offered countless benefits to the students and faculty. “The cohesiveness among students, faculty and staff has been a blessing,” Velas says. “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,” Beaudin says. “I truly feel we’re a team working together to navigate through this quick program. We’re learning a tremendous amount of information, and the 16 months are flying by.”

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 provided socks and information to people experiencing homelessness in and around the Westmont Downtown building with Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse.

A student nurse

“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.

Velas has hired three full-time faculty members: 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). “Accreditation of this program is paramount to students continuing their education at the master’s and doctoral levels,” Velas says.

In April, Westmont submitted a comprehensive report to CCNE, which will send three representatives for a site visit to Westmont Downtown. After reviewing the courses and clinical work, they’ll meet with faculty, students and the advisory committee before presenting their findings to the AACN board for accreditation.

Beaudin, who graduated from Westmont in the 80s, says she brings a different perspective to the program. “I’m in a different season of life than the rest of my cohort,” she says. “The offer of a spot in this program was truly a gift. I feel strongly that this was probably my last chance at a lifetime goal.

“This program is an amazing addition for Westmont and a huge benefit for our community by educating and training more nurses.”

First nursing cohort