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Inspiring the Next Generation of Healthcare Professionals

Thirty-one New Haven area high school students attended Southern’s second annual Summer Nursing Symposium in the newly-opened College of Health and Human Services building this June. The five-day on-campus learning experience presented an opportunity for Southern faculty to mentor local students of underrepresented backgrounds into healthcare fields. 

Along with gaining hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment, participant Riley Baez, a rising senior at the Engineering and Science University Magnet School, appreciated the opportunity to work alongside professionals in the field. 

“Hanging around the professors all day, you really see how they genuinely want to get to know us. They see us as individual people and want to help us pursue our careers.”

Participants learned about different nursing pathways, were introduced to common supplies used within the profession and practiced using them, participated in simulations, and even ventured off-campus to shadow a nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The program also provided participants with in-depth exposure to all parts of the medical field, allowing them to selectively hone in on areas of interest with their future careers in mind. 

According to Dr. Kristen Borgognone, assistant professor of nursing, hosting the symposium in the new Health and Human Services building enhanced participants’ ability to fully immerse themselves in healthcare simulations.

“They’ve had the opportunity to really experience the role of the nurse in many different hands-on activities. They can ask questions. First, we show them, then they actually can turn around and teach each other and that’s really good when you see that happen.” 

Many of the activities were held in the fourth floor’s nursing simulation labs, and the first floor’s 120-seat lecture hall. 

Molly Pellino, a rising junior at Wilbur Cross High School, described the experience as “adapting with the generation.”

“This building gives you a lot of exposure to nursing, [and the] many different things you can try and use,” said Pellino.

Thanks to an expansive four-year partnership with Yale New Haven Health, Southern will double the number of B.S. nurses graduating from the university within the next four years, helping to address a critical nursing shortage in Connecticut heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a bid to boost diversity in the nursing ranks, the grant also funds two new initiatives providing nursing education and career growth opportunities for certified nursing aides and high school students, respectively. 

After this week’s visit to Southern and Yale New Haven Hospital, Pellino and Baez feel more confident about their choice to go into the healthcare field, as well as having Southern as a potential pathway towards earning a degree. 

“I came into this program barely knowing what I wanted to do,” said Baez. “This helped me narrow it down to a family nurse practitioner.”

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