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USM Preparing Nurses to Meet Today’s Healthcare Challenges

Mon, 12/21/2020 - 15:57pm | By: David Tisdale

Aisha Cook (left) and Lacey Lundy (right)

Aisha Cook (left) and Lacey Lundy (right)

Recent graduates of The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) nursing programs are entering the healthcare field prepared to deliver vital care during a global health crisis the likes of which haven’t been seen in a century. 

Two of those from the fall 2020 semester – Aisha Cook and Lacey Lundy, both of Gulfport, Miss. and recipients of bachelor’s degrees in nursing – are ready to take their place on the front lines in hospitals and health service facilities working to deliver care to patients battling COVID-19 or other medical challenges, as hope for an end to the pandemic increases with the ongoing dissemination of vaccines.

Cook said she was drawn to the USM Nursing program for its innovative new technology, including its simulation lab, which she believes helped her achieve the most success as a student nurse. Despite the disruptions to academic and day-to-day life routines brought on by the pandemic, she says USM prepared her well for the changing nursing profession.

“The idea people would trust me to care for them as a nurse when they are in their most vulnerable state is such an honor,” said Cook. “Regardless of whether I’m caring for patients with such a highly transmittable virus or not, I’ll always consider them like a member of my family, and give 100 percent of my effort.”

Lundy first knew she wanted to be a nurse after seeing the care provided to her grandfather when he was battling a serious liver disease.

“The compassion they showed him before his passing, as well as to my family, was extremely powerful,” Lundy said. “I have always enjoyed helping others, so I decided that the nursing profession would be a perfect fit for me. Without a doubt, I made the best decision I could have ever made. I applied for the USM nursing program, and have learned what it takes to be a great nurse while providing the best patient care possible.”

Her experience in the program, Lundy said, has been “nothing less than exceptional.”

“It took a lot of hard work and motivation, but with the guidance and support from the faculty, it was achievable,” she said. “Without the nursing faculty’s dedication and desire for us to be successful, none of this would have been possible.”

Both Cook and Lundy cited one USM Nursing program faculty member, Jill Rushing, for her exceptional teaching and mentorship. Rushing’s areas of expertise include critical care and emergency nursing.

“I’ll never forget her telling us in class that nursing is the eyes and ears of medicine, because we interact with the patient the most, and are the first people to see changes in a patient’s condition,” Cook said. “This is when I truly understood the importance of nursing, and it motivated me to finish the nursing program strong.”

Lundy said Rushing’s many inspirational patient stories helped her to further realize the power of using one’s voice to advocate for and positively shape patient outcomes. “Her willingness to go above and beyond to ensure that we begin our careers as competent, compassionate, and safe nurses, has truly inspired me,” she said. 

Lundy said entering the profession during a pandemic was not something that she or other members of her class would have ever imagined, but the experience can enhance their ability to demonstrate resilience in the future.

“Pandemics are never a question of ‘if,’ but rather a question of ‘when,’” she said, noting that this past year has given her and her classmates the opportunity to become confident in what they must do to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

“My personal philosophy is to learn to trust the journey, even when you do not understand it,” Lundy said. “Despite these unprecedented times, as new nurses we must persevere and focus on providing safe and effective patient care.” 

Dr. Lachel Story, professor and dean of the USM College of Nursing and Health Professions, said USM’s 2020 nursing program graduates have experienced difficulties and disruptions, but they were determined to complete their degree requirements and achieve their goals. More than 150 students earned undergraduate, graduate and specialty degrees in the fall from the College of Nursing and Health Professions.  

“These are uncertain times; however, what I do know is that each of our graduates will play a vital role in the health of our state and nation, whether it is on the COVID frontlines or in the community,” Dr. Story continued. “Right now, it is easy to lose sight of our core human and professional values as we experience fatigue and stress that comes from uncertainty, but now is the time the world needs honesty, integrity, empathy, compassion, and advocacy.

“These graduates are exactly what we need right now, and for years to come. They have already come so far and have accomplished so much. They are resilient and powerful.”

For information about the USM College of Nursing and Health Professions, including its undergraduate and graduate degree programs and the important work of its faculty, visit