Gracie Jarest, a junior at Regis College, knew from a young age she wanted to be a nurse. She experienced firsthand the obstacles that come with medical ailments at the age of 3 when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and again at 13 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After numerous doctor appointments and hospital visits, Jarest, also inspired by her aunt’s work as a nurse, knew she wanted to provide the same compassionate care for patients and their loved ones that she and her family received.
This summer, Jarest began doing just that as a patient care assistant (PCA) at the Brigham, thanks to a new joint program with Regis College to prepare the next generation of nurses. Last spring, 15 outstanding nursing students were selected to work in Oncology and Medical/Surgical units as full-time PCAs over the summer and part-time during the academic year.
The idea for the program was brought forward by Kristen Holly, BSN, RN, a clinical nurse in the Neurosciences ICU, and developed by nursing leaders as part of the Department of Nursing’s existing affiliation with Regis. Over the last few months, the program has proved beneficial to not only the students but also the staff, patients and families at the Brigham.
“It has been a pleasure bringing these bright students into our Oncology service,” said Katie Spinello, DNP, RN, nurse director for the Hematology/Oncology Float Pool, Braunwald Tower 6A and the Shapiro Pavilion. “They bring their enthusiasm for learning and professional growth with them to the bedside. The staff nurses and patient care assistants do a wonderful job of welcoming them and mentoring them as they grow their practice in the clinical setting.”
Jarest was motivated to apply for the position after completing a clinical rotation at the Brigham last year, where she took her first steps toward a professional nursing career. She says her clinical rotation and first few months as a PCA have helped her become more comfortable interacting with patients.
“The nurses and other PCAs are so helpful. Nurses always include me in conversations with patients,” she said. “They tell me step by step what they are doing for the patient and why. I am harnessing the professional and personal skills I need to become a nurse.”
Jarest hopes to graduate and become a nurse within the next two years, a goal she believes she can accomplish, thanks to the experience she is gaining as a Brigham PCA.
“I highly recommend any nursing student or student interested in the medical field to apply for this opportunity to become a nursing assistant because it truly is a rewarding experience,” she said.