BMCC Nursing Chair Jacqueline Nichols received the Caribbean American Healthcare Award on June 25 at the Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. The award is presented annually by Caribbean Life, an online news organization for and about the Caribbean community in New York City.
The event’s 34 honorees include doctors, nurses, administrators and others “selected for their outstanding professionalism and community outreach efforts, either in New York or back in their home country,” said Jennifer Stern, a staff person at Caribbean Life.
Professor Nichols, who has served as Chair of the BMCC nursing department for the last seven years, is about to step down from that role and begin a year’s sabbatical.
During that time, she will complete a nursing fellowship at NYSIM, The New York Simulation Center for the Health Sciences at the CUNY/NYU Langone Medical Center at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
“I plan to research the benefits of training with human patient simulators, for nursing graduates who haven’t found employment in the field for six to nine months or even a year,” says Nichols.
“My concern is that if there is a lag time between when they graduate and when they begin working as nurses, their level of competency might be affected. Employers expect nurses to have excellent skills, right away.”
Four CUNY colleges reach out to nursing graduates
To address the marketability of nursing graduates who do not go to work right after completing their degree, Nichols explains, four CUNY colleges are taking part in the Evidence-Based Research Simulation Program for Unemployed CUNY Associate Degree Nursing Graduates, or ADNs. These include BMCC, Hostos Community College, LaGuardia Community College and Queensborough Community College. The program will work with 10 nursing graduates from each of the four participating colleges.
“First, we’ll assess the skills of all 40 participants, then they will complete a series of trainings with the human patient simulators and various computer programs, and we’ll assess their competency again, at the end of that,” says Nichols.
The project will also track the participants’ progress once they are hired by a hospital or in another medical setting.
Becoming a nurse
Like many of her students, Jacqueline Nichols immigrated to the United States as a child.
She and her brother moved to Brooklyn from Panama, when she was 11 years old. The two children lived with different families as they waited to join their mother, a live-in domestic worker on Long Island who sent for her children once she found employment in the newborn nursery of a hospital and moved to her own apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
“My mother was a role model for me,” Nichols says. “So was my godmother, who became a nurse in a medical surgical unit, and took me to work with her a few times."
Nichols earned an associate degree in nursing from Bronx Community College, and holds a master’s degree in Health Administration through Central Michigan University’s off-site campus in Brooklyn. She has worked as a Registered Nurse at Interfaith Hospital in Brooklyn and as Associate Director of Nursing at Harlem Hospital Center.
She also served for 24 years as an Army Reserve Officer in a medical training unit, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
The impact of technology
Nichols joined the nursing faculty at BMCC in 1999, and has seen technology’s increasing impact on student learning, as it has transformed the workplace they are entering.
BMCC’s “state-of-the-art medical lab equipment, new electronic medication dispensing system, excellent Web-based tutorials, and access to tutoring,” all contribute to the high rate of student success in the BMCC nursing program, Nichols says.
She adds that nursing majors also complete rigorous clinical rotations at public and private hospitals throughout New York City.
“Nursing graduates sometimes need support as they transition from earning an associate degree, to finding a job. The NYSIM project addresses that gap,” Nichols says. “We can’t just say, ‘Go out there and fend for yourself’. We know our nursing graduates have barriers, and I’ll work day in and day out to help them overcome them.”