As graduation approached last June, nursing major Janet Alaia recalls, she couldn’t help feeling a certain anxiety. “It’s scary to go from being a student to having someone’s life in your hands,” she says.
But these days, Alaia is facing the future with more confidence, having recently completed a postgraduate externship at Brooklyn’s Woodhull Medical Center. She was one of only 16 BMCC nursing graduates selected for the program.
From bronchoscopies to neuro work-ups
“It was definitely intense,” Alia says. “I was assigned to the ICU [intensive care unit], where many of the patients were extremely critical.”
Over the course of the eight-week program, Alaia got to observe first-hand, procedures and treatments she had only read about in textbooks—from bronchoscopies to full-body neurological work-ups.
She also participated in the ICU’s rapid response team, which attended to patients in cardiac arrest under “code blue” conditions.
“I spent much of my time shadowing my preceptor—an experienced nurse—and watching everything she did,” says Alaia. “I learned a tremendous amount from her in a very short time.”
Fellow extern Mantreet Singh—who, like Alaia, is now a Registered Nurse—was assigned to Woodhull’s emergency room, where he similarly observed life-saving procedures, shadowed his preceptor, and gained hands-on experience in taking vital signs and doing patient assessments.
“I was placed in the ER with another BMCC extern, and together we learned an enormous amount,” he says. Among other skills, Singh says, “we learned the protocols to be followed for stroke and cardiac arrest patients.”
How BMCC added value
Both Alaia and Singh say that BMCC prepared them well for their externships and for the challenges of working in a major urban hospital. “My education and hospital experience were closely intertwined,” Singh says.
“It was in the BMCC nursing program where I learned how to work as part of a team, where I got my first clinical experience, and where I learned the importance of being an advocate for my patients.”
Alaia credits the mentoring and instruction she received from her BMCC professors as a key factor in the confidence she felt as she began her externship.
“They set high expectations for us and encouraged us to work independently,” she says. “It often felt it would be easier if they simply handed the information to us, but they pushed us to develop the skills and knowledge we’d need.”
For Alaia and Singh, the next step in their career path is to find jobs. “I definitely feel the externship will be a plus in that regard,” says Alaia. Singh agrees. “In the eyes of potential employers, we’ve already gained professional experience,” he says. “That should count for a lot.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: The 16 BMCC graduates who participated in this externship are: Janet Alaia, Annette Alonzo, Claire Barbee, Tatsiana Boutenko, Mei Zhe Chen, Nana Essuman, Diana Fox, Shao Lin, Shelline Kerr, Rebecca Mathews, Tamara McFarlane, Aneta Raybin, Tanya Ruiz, Manpreet Singh, Mariusz Wierzbicki.