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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Words of wisdom: The new peer-led freshmen seminar program

student voice - spring/summer 09

By Kristen Padulsky

In the fall of 2008, freshmen in the Connell School of Nursing had a new class on their schedules. The Nursing Professional Development Seminar was designed by the faculty in response to feedback from students, who wanted to feel more connected to nursing earlier in their program. The course aims to facilitate the transition from high school to college and introduce the profession of nursing through peer-led seminars. Cathy Read, associate dean of the undergraduate program, modeled the course after the highly successful first-year professional development seminar at the Lynch School of Education.

The program is designed to expose freshmen to the Boston College nursing community from their first day on campus. Seminar groups of six to 12 students are led by two to three undergraduate and graduate students. These small groups provide first-year students a safe place to share with others, establish friendships with peers, and develop mentoring relationships with senior classmates. Topics will be revised each year based on student feedback—this flexibility will ensure that freshmen are exposed to the most pertinent information as they strive to succeed in that critical first year of a rigorous nursing program.

Introduced to the seminar at orientation, students begin the academic year by discussing the transition from home to college, time management, and how to keep up with classes in a new environment. As they become more comfortable with their surroundings and get to know one another, the groups begin to focus on other issues. The peer advisors share their experience with nursing clinical practice and the group discusses the many opportunities available for nursing students. The seminar also addresses topics such as how to navigate course registration, and demystifies the experience of the housing lottery. Many students indicated that the course registration seminar was the most helpful and beneficial of the program because they saw such significant and immediate benefits. One student explained, "My peer advisors offered to sit down with me and help me register. This session helped me organize my schedule and eliminate stress."

The dedicated and dynamic peer advisors are truly what make this program a success. Each advisor brings a unique and beneficial insight to the discussion. As the leaders share their personal experiences, the freshmen realize that they are not alone during this transitional period. The seminar also provides the peer leaders a chance to reflect on their experiences as Boston College nursing students. As one peer leader said, "I had been feeling overwhelmed with applying for jobs, keeping up with school work, and worrying about what my life would be like after I graduate. The experience of working with the freshmen helped me realize how far I've come in just a few years. I had the same worries and concerns as they did when I first came here, but now I'm the one able to answer their questions and reassure them."

The seminars also initiate social networks that may be sustained throughout the students' Boston College careers and into their professional lives. By pairing first-year students with older classmates who will soon be or are already in the workforce, the students can be better prepared for the experiences and challenges that come with being a nursing student in a large university. In a few short years, these same young students will be the leaders who impart their wisdom to another generation of future nurses. We look forward to the continued success and development of this program as it provides such a wonderful opportunity for freshmen nursing students at Boston College.