Starting a full-time nursing program can be scary and stressful. Students at Samuel Merritt University (SMU) have a solution that builds friendships and community.
At the start of each academic year, each of the Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing (ELMSN) students finishing their fourth semester of pre-licensure studies is paired with an incoming student on SMU’s Oakland and Sacramento campuses to provide guidance and mentorship.
The buddy system has been going strong for the past decade and was originally initiated by ELMSN students several years earlier as a way to “pay it forward,” according to Associate Professor Teresa Gwin.
“The buddies stay connected all year and sometimes as longtime friends,” said Gwin.
Jennifer Cruz, class president for the 2018 class of family nurse practitioners and one of the leaders of this year’s buddy program, said the upperclassmen tap into their own experience to help the new students navigate through their first year.
“Having been new students last year, we understand that incoming students may have questions, worries, or often feel overwhelmed,” said Cruz. “The most common piece of advice we like to give is to work as a team with your fellow classmates, because your classmates are your best resources. This was the advice given to us from our buddies last year, and it worked tremendously.”
Before school started, a survey was sent to learn more about the new students. Then Cruz and another upperclassman matched each one of their classmates with a new student based on their specialty — family nurse practitioner or case management — and similar interests.
The tradition of supporting students through their first year of the ELMSN program kicked off this year with a meet-and-greet pizza party in September. A Facebook page keeps students informed about future meetups.
“Our class works so well together, and we wish that for the new cohort as well,” Cruz said. “Healthcare is entirely centered on teamwork, and I am glad we can practice and execute these life skills early on in school.”