Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) is home to an Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) with a twist: among those providing care for the newborns and their parents are a troupe of Colby-Sawyer alumni, faculty and student nurses, including Elizabeth Abbott ’17.
“I’ve wanted to work at DHMC since I was little,” said Abbott, who grew up in Pembroke, N.H. Her senior practicum at the medical center is the culmination of the years of hard work and dedication she has put into becoming a nurse.
Abbott thrives in the ICN, which is a particularly demanding environment due to the extreme fragility of its patients who are either acutely ill or recovering from a premature birth. The stethoscope she uses to listen to her patients’ hearts is smaller than a grape.
The senior practicum is designed to facilitate the transition from the role of student to graduate nurse. Abbott medicates, feeds and performs assessments independently throughout the day, working to keep the infants of the ICN comfortable while also reassuring and educating their parents.
“What I do now during my preceptorship is basically what I’ll do once I graduate and become a full-time nurse,” Abbott said.
By the time they complete Colby-Sawyer’s nursing program, graduates are seasoned by several years of hospital experience that culminates in the senior preceptorships. Clinical rotations begin in the spring semester of sophomore year. The summer after their junior year, nursing students complete an externship, which is a paid hospital learning experience they apply and interview for on their own. Abbott’s externship took place in DHMC’s ICN as well. “I originally wanted to work in oncology,” she said, “but after my externship in the ICN I couldn’t imagine myself being happy anywhere else.”
Abbott is supported in the unit by preceptors Kate Richards ’13 and Katelyn Cormier, a clinical professor. The college’s partnership with the medical center allows DHMC nurses to be contracted to teach Colby-Sawyer students and opens a gateway for a career in the hospital for budding nurses.
“I always knew I wanted to be a nurse,” Abbott said. “We’re lucky as nurses because we get to be there to take care of people at their most vulnerable and help them and their families.” It’s a bonus, she adds, that every day feels like a Colby-Sawyer reunion.