Arin Beyer remembers the anxiety. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. The 23-year-old was about to begin the first shift after orientation training when he would truly be on his own as a nursing professional. “It was that moment when you realize that you are responsible for a person’s life,” explained Beyer.
On the other hand, he had every reason to be confident. He had graduated from Union College, the #1 nursing program in Nebraska with a 100 percent first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate in 2018. Every single graduate from Arin’s May 2018 graduating class passed on their first attempt, as well as the graduates from December 2017.
He had the training—including more than 900 hours of clinical experiences in clinical rotations, simulation, and observations. He had studied hard, meeting many mornings at The Mill coffee shop with other students to master the material. He had ridden on the school’s reputation and teacher recommendations to his first-choice job at Nebraska Heart Hospital.
But he was still nervous. “I had to remember I wasn’t alone,” said Beyer. “I had other nurses in my unit and I had my charge nurse.” Seven months later he displays the relaxed confidence of someone who has found his calling. “God has put it on my heart to help people in need,” he said.
Beyer grew up in Keene, Texas. Both his parents worked as nurses so he always saw healthcare as a possibility. During spring break his senior year in high school, he visited Union College in Lincoln. He had his eyes on the Physician Assistant program. But a chance meeting with some nursing faculty made an impression on him. “Being a nurse is always an option,” they told him. “We have an excellent program here.”
Beyer arrived in August 2014 as a freshman. He was ten hours from home and didn’t know a single student besides his residence hall roommate. Within a week, he was surrounded by a circle of new friends. “There’s a family feel here,” he said of his college home.
Beyer took a year and half of prerequisites and then started the five-semester nursing program. “The amount of time I spent studying for class significantly increased once I was in the program,” he said. “I remember one Sunday when I studied for 16 hours. I never thought I would do that. But the time you put into it is what you get out of it.”
Book knowledge was balanced by clinical rotations with real patients and time in the college’s Nursing Simulation Center. Patient simulators look like people and mimic bodily functions, allowing students to feel a pulse, assess pupil reaction, listen to lungs, and see reactions to medication. The manikins can even complain to the students about their symptoms. While instructors watch behind the scenes in a control room, nursing students have the freedom to test their skills and decision-making without risking injury to a real human. They even work in teams to care for groups of patients—just like they would in a hospital. “You can practice being a full-on nurse in a safe environment,” said Beyer. “I think that is a huge asset.”
“We implement simulation in every level of the program,” said Dr. Nicole Orian, chair of the Division of Nursing. “We believe our unique approach to simulation is one of the reasons our graduates pass the NCLEX-RN the first time.”
During the intense training, Beyer found that the teachers mentored him as a friend and developing professional, and not just a consumer of education. Professors talked him through tough times such as the death of his grandfather and a painful breakup. “I could tell they cared about me as a person,” he said.
“The faculty genuinely care about the students,” affirmed Dr. Orian. “The professors come from a background of caring for patients and they bring that same concern to their students. They provide lots of encouragement, prayers and grace.”
As a Christian school, the program builds in opportunities for practicing compassion and healing outside typical medical settings. The students staff a monthly foot clinic for the homeless and many choose to take the Global Health Nursing course that culminates in a short-term trip to provide medical care in a developing nation.
It was on a trip to Nicaragua that Beyer had a time of self doubt. He had left the states with the idea of being a medical hero and getting some great shots for Instagram. But once he started working in a local hospital, he began to question his motivation. Am I just here to take pictures? he asked himself. Amy Golter, one of his professors on the trip, saw that he was troubled. “She spoke these amazing things that will always stick with me,” remembered Beyer. “She told me how valuable I was and that she saw Jesus in me. I thought that was really special that she would find the words to uplift me.”
Those moments had a direct impact on the way Beyer relates to his patients. “I try to be aware of their needs,” he said. “Maybe they’re scared. Maybe they need an explanation. Maybe they need a prayer.”
“I want to be the nurse that people can go to for help and guidance and questions,” said Beyer. And he knows that his Union College education put him in position to do it. “I would love to mentor new nurses someday. Seeing how the professors at Union helped me, I want to do the same for others. I know what some support can do in getting people through their day.”
To learn more about the Union College nursing program, visit ucollege.edu/nursing or call 402.486.2504.
By Kim Peckham, Director of Communication Strategy