In 2015, Akron Children’s launched a program called ASCEND (Assuring Success with a Commitment to Enhance Nurse Diversity) with the goal of promoting a more diverse nursing workforce at the hospital. The 10-week summer internship, designed for nursing students entering their senior year, provides students professional development opportunities, hands-on nurse-related activities and the potential for future employment.
“The ASCEND program provides a unique opportunity for diverse nursing students to see a pediatric inpatient healthcare setting from a different perspective,” said Megan Dorrington, MBA, CPN, ASCEND program coordinator. “In addition to their clinical unit experiences, interns also learn about nursing professional development that will be beneficial throughout their nursing careers.”
The program, which just completed its third cohort, has allowed the hospital to hire 22 nurses and 51 nurse techs over the last 3 years. Former ASCEND students Grace Thayer, BSN, and Philip Burt, BSN, credit the program with easing their transitions from students to new hires at Children’s.
“The ASCEND internship was the best thing I could have done for my career,” said Grace. “Because of the internship, I discovered my love and passion for the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). I would have never thought I would thrive in this environment prior to my internship.”
Philip, who now works as a nurse in the Transitional Care Unit (7100) in Akron, agrees.
“Akron Children’s opened its doors to us as students and gave us the opportunity to explore a setting that not many people get to experience prior to graduating from nursing school,” he said. “Essentially they paid us to learn and grow in our early nursing careers, be hands-on, and be a part of the decision-making team on the units we were on. I’ve never heard of another nursing internship like this. And, all the while, we were essentially interviewing for future employment, which was a huge advantage.”
For Grace, who is now a nurse in the St. Elizabeth’s NICU, being in ASCEND helped her develop critical thinking skills and ease the transition from student nurse technician to nurse.
“I was exposed to advanced teamwork and critical thinking the entire time I was a student nurse technician,” she said. “I knew the layout and flow of the unit before I became a nurse. There is so much to learn outside of hands-on nursing care. I feel I have had an advantage in that way.
“My favorite part of the program was the additional education we received,” Grace added. “While on my unit, NICU-MV at St. Elizabeth’s, I loved going to deliveries and admitting new patients. I actively searched out opportunities to learn and assist staff. I asked questions and received thoughtful answers.”
Philip says it was beneficial to see firsthand the hospital’s culture and environment.
“I learned basic policies and procedures that are used in the hospital and I was able to meet people and make connections that helped me become a better nurse,” he said. “On the clinical side of things, I was able to see the types of patients we cared for and how we treat them. Just knowing the flow and processes on the floor was a huge head start for me when I graduated and started as a nurse.”
Both Philip and Grace are grateful for the experiences ASCEND gave them.
“I’m most thankful for the opportunity to become part of the Akron Children’s family,” said Grace. “This hospital is unlike any other I have been in before. I love the type of nurse this environment creates. I love that I have been chosen to become one of them. “
“It’s the staff and the culture at Akron Children’s that drew me in right away,” said Philip. “It far exceeded that of any healthcare facility I had ever been in. The ASCEND program gave me a foot in the door to my future and I haven’t looked back since.”