Penn State Mont Alto student-athletes are on their game with nursing studies

From Penn State Mont Alto
Student athletes Drew Faust of Chambersburg, Rachel Manikowski of Greencastle and Tyler Moreland of Spring Mills, W.Va., are enrolled in the nursing program at Penn State Mont Alto.

Despite being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the determination to continue pursuing a nursing degree at Penn State Mont Alto hasn't wavered for several student-athletes. Each is in various stages of the nursing program at Mont Alto, but for Drew Faust, Rachel Manikowski and Tyler Moreland they have gained a further motivation and inspiration to work within the field in such a time of need.

"I had the experience of interning at the Chambersburg Hospital in June and just being able to witness the nurses and nursing assistants get through the many troubles, it was eye-opening," remarked junior men's soccer player Drew Faust of Chambersburg. "There is a certain mental toughness similar to being in athletic situations that I saw these frontline health care workers display."

"I think the health care field as a whole has really come together in this unknown time and is truly providing hours of blood, sweat and tears caring for each and every patient," said volleyball player Rachel Manikowski of Greencastle. "My outlook of working in the field has only changed in the sense that I wish I already had my degree in order to help during this pandemic as every resource in the health care field is facing exhaustion and could use additional help."

All three of the student-athletes are currently engaged in the four-year nursing program. This program transitioned from a two-year program that started in 1991 to the four-year program which began in 2016 at Penn State Mont Alto. The program combines a broad liberal arts and science foundation with an extensive range of nursing courses.

Carranda Barkdoll of Greencastle is program coordinator of both the two-year and four-year programs at Penn State Mont Alto.

"The rigors are demanding within the nursing program," said Carranda Barkdoll of Greencastle, program coordinator of both the two-year and four-year programs. "The students must juggle clinical obligations, simulation/lab demonstration and prepare academically for the NCLEX Exam, even when some balance family responsibilities, employment demands or are participating in varsity sports." 

For student-athletes, it is a balancing act with academics and athletics as the student-athletes attempt to stay organized to achieve the goals that they set for themselves. Sophomore Tyler Moreland of the baseball program, attributes being on the baseball team as the source of the self-discipline needed and applies it directly to the classroom setting in order to help him with his time management skills.

"My classes are extremely challenging and demanding," said Moreland of Spring Mills, W. Va. "In order to succeed within our nursing program, you must be driven and set high standards for yourself. I have taken the drive I have for baseball and applied it in the same way for my studies."

"My planner is what gets me through being a student-athlete," added Rachel Manikowski. "I write down every single assignment, quiz, exam, studying times, practices, games and meetings. This past fall and not having competitions made it a bit easier to balance both, but volleyball is my stress reliever and I was thankful to be around practicing with the teammates that I love."

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The hands-on portions of classes have changed for the students. Classes that are normally taught in-person transitioned to an online format. Labs have also been conducted differently than in years past, with additional sections being added to ensure each student is getting the necessary time in the lab rooms.

"This past semester was memorable in the sense that I completed clinical assessments at home where I found creative ways to make my 'home' a clinical environment," said Moreland.

The students do fear that since they aren't working and caring for real patients in real settings that they won't be as proficient in the field as previous graduates. But according to Barkdoll, those fears should be alleviated with the fact that they are still receiving the same Penn State education.

"Hospitals may need to work with the new graduates a little closer to help build their confidence," remarked Barkdoll. "But we still need nurses more than ever because the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on present nurses leveling the profession, for one quite simply, burn out. "

Student-athletes often find themselves persisting past their comfort zones in order to achieve goals on the playing field. This year they have especially persevered in the classroom setting with the changes thrown at them and have relied upon their coaches and academic support staff for encouragement, guidance and positive feedback.