In military parlance, the role of a wingman is to position an airplane behind the wing of a leading aircraft in flight formation to provide protective support. A wingman is also considered someone who helps, protects, and guides a friend or associate.
For first-year UMass Dartmouth College of Nursing & Health Sciences (CNHS) students, their wingman will play a major supporting role in their success as they begin their nursing and medical laboratory science studies.
The wingman experience, where CNHS students are randomly paired together to encourage them to interact in a meaningful way through the demanding first years of their curriculum, was a significant component of the recent Student Leadership Academy (SLA). By communicating with and supporting each other—from freshman year through the conclusion of their sophomore year before they begin clinicals—the wingman experience is expected to promote a sense of community and establish accountability for academic success, professional development, and healthy social interactions among CNHS students and their peers.
More than 400 nursing and medical laboratory science students recently participated in the two-day SLA on campus. They attended workshops on topics ranging from study skills to self-care and lab safety. They also participated in group activities including a presentation by the Army Nurse Corps, an obstacle course, and, for the sophomore nursing students, first aid training.
Established in September 2018 by the college’s Student Support Services, the academy aims to increase CNHS students’ commitment to the highest academic and professional standards and assist them in achieving a greater understanding of their roles and responsibilities as health sciences students and young professionals. The academy’s curriculum focuses on communication, critical thinking, leadership, professional development, self-care, and team building.
The academy is based on the Jeffreys Nursing Universal Retention and Success (NURS) Model, a pedagogical framework used to promote student engagement, retention, and success. Throughout the year, students will progress through five academy benchmarks and participate in advising meetings, along with other SSS-sponsored programming.
"What makes our college unique from other nursing schools around the country is the level of engagement we provide starting the moment students are accepted in June,” said CNHS Dean Kimberly Christopher. “The Student Leadership Academy, which we believe is a unique experience among BSN programs, provides the infrastructure for a robust student support system that encourages, enables, and empowers students to strive for personal, academic, and career success."
“The academy has impacted the culture of the college,” said Jason Campagnone, program manager of diversity nursing. “Students work together more as a team, they see the value in thinking about each other. They are more aware of how to balance their personal lives and school.”
Students were matched with their wingman prior to the SLA. Freshman nursing students were matched with sophomore nursing students, who will act as mentors, while freshman medical laboratory science students were matched with freshmen in their major. Wingmen will be required to communicate weekly.
Sophomores were added to the academy this year because, as Campagnone said, “Providing this level of engagement for the first two years of nursing school indicates s greater likelihood of degree completion. Students have a greater understanding of the demands and expectations of nursing school at the end of their sophomore year.”
Workshops addressed range of topics in nursing school and professional careers
Academy graduates led 14 groups of students through the academy and will continue to lead them throughout the full academic year. These student leaders will serve as role models for professional behavior and dedication to the nursing and medical laboratory science professions. They will share their experiences of successes and failures and encourage involvement in organizations that promote the ideals and values of healthcare professionals.
Workshops, led by community professionals and CNHS staff and students, were designed to assist first-year students in their nursing studies and prepare them for their future healthcare careers.
In the Lessons Learned workshop, Kevin Valentine ‘24 talked about his experiences and how to be successful in nursing school. “Nursing is different,” he said. “More is expected from you. You have to know how to work together with people because you are going to work with doctors, CNAs, and other nurses. You will deal with something different every day and you need to know how to adapt to the situation.”
Students learned how to recognize burnout in the Self-Care workshop and how to take steps to prevent it by taking care of their minds and bodies.
In the Wingman Experience, Will Tuttle ’22 talked about trust. “You will get used to interacting with people you can’t choose. You will keep each other on track, have several check-ins, and communicate and study with each other. Your wingman is the starting point for the chain of command, the first person you ask for help.”
Presentation by the Army Nurse Corps
Representatives from the MA Army National Guard, the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, and the ROTC Patriot Battalion from Providence College spoke to nursing students about medical career opportunities in the military. While working as a nurse, students can also work in other areas like military intelligence, cybersecurity, or special forces.
In addition to the camaraderie, the military offers an opportunity to gain hands-on leadership skills, travel, and help others, the officers said. Army nurses have delivered Covid-19 vaccines to Paraguay and set up a field hospital in Africa.
CDT MacKensie Woodward ‘22 joined the UMass Dartmouth Army ROTC Program as a sophomore where she received tuition benefits and opportunities to specialize and practice in field hospitals. She completed 150 clinical hours at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD last year. She will commission into the Active Duty force in the Army Nurse Corps and hopes to become a critical care nurse.
Her ROTC classes in leadership skills have been helpful in her clinical training as well as in time management. “You have to learn to do what needs to be done in a timely manner, which is a huge valuable lesson,” she said. “The training gets you out of your comfort zone and you become a better leader.”
Sophomore nursing students trained in first aid
During the academy, sophomore nursing students received SMART training–Student Medical Assistance Response Team–that will enable them to serve on a first aid team at community events. In addition to the hands-on training, workshops included search and rescue, medical operations, field psychology, and terrorism awareness. Following the training, the students practiced what they learned on fellow sophomore nursing students. The training was recently introduced to local health officials. (Learn more)
Academy provided students with valuable resources and skills
Kenny Maxfield, senior student leader for the academy, said, "The academy spanned 22 hours over the course of the weekend. From countless workshops to multiple hands-on drills, the students were given vital resources and skills that they can take with them through the rest of their nursing school career and out into the field. Hopefully they have the broader understanding that it takes grit, attention to detail, teamwork, and critical thinking to do well in this program.
According to Maxfield, this was the largest academy with over 400 participants and volunteers, and it went incredibly smoothly thanks to the leadership and problem-solving ability of all the nursing and MLS student leaders: Katelyn Feeney ‘22, Hannah Eugenio ‘22, Aidan Quintal ‘22, Maya Tavares ‘22, Synnove Ask ’23, Hannah Morrison ’24, Paige Bernier ‘24, Kevin Valentine ‘24, Savannah Laroche ’24, Madison Docca ‘24, Adrianna Fernandes ’24, Matt McGrath ’24, and Ayla Canaran ‘24.
Students said they appreciated learning about time management and professional training and skills. “They gave us a lot of information about the nursing program in our freshman and sophomore year that will help us become nurses and train us for actual nursing,” said Halle Jennings '25.
“At first, it was hard opening up to others, but by the end of the second day we were nothing shy of a family,” said Eric Le ’25. “The Student Leadership Academy continues to build community by forging relationships among nursing and MLS students that are based on respect of the mutual experiences we all face as college students in the 21st century.”
“Though at the end of the day on Sunday I saw many tired faces. I also noticed a sense of community that was not there when registration began the day prior. A community of nursing and med lab science students united with pride in what they had accomplished and were armed with the knowledge to succeed under any circumstance they find themselves in," added Maxfield.
The academy was funded by CNHS and donations from parents, alumni, and members of the SouthCoast healthcare community, including SouthCoast Hospital Group, St. Anne's Hospital, Irene Qi '00 and her husband Luning, CNHS parent Susan Glick, and Mary Louise Nunes '83.