I Couldn’t Be Prouder of These Villanova Graduates and Students

Established in 1953, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing is one of the crown jewels of Villanova University and provides an educational experience that challenges students to become nursing leaders working at the forefront of modern health care, in every corner of the world.

The College educates nurses to emerge as strong leaders in the areas of clinical practice, innovation, research, education and administration, all exemplified by Augustinian teaching and values tied to knowledge, compassion and social justice.

The College’s web site has begun to share the experiences of Villanova Nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle from Philadelphia to New York and in other areas of our country. The collection is a work in progress and will be updated as more stories are shared with the College.

I thought I’d share some of the stories as a way of showing my gratitude for the work they are doing. Feel free to just read one story, or read all of them. They are all heroes.

A.C. Clinton ’19 BSN, RN

Male nurse

Staff nurse, Operating Room
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Being a new-to-practice nurse in the operating room presents its own challenges. With the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve been challenged on how to safely take care of my patients and how to properly protect myself until this situation clears.

I can honestly say that the operating room at my hospital has been on the frontlines combating this virus by donning PPE and enforcing hand hygiene and temperature scanning for everyone entering the hospital.

I’m glad I can be a part of nurses handling this situation and getting it under control.

Michele McGarvey Connell ’86 BSN, ’14 MSN, FNP-BC, CEN, CPEN

Female nurse wearing PPE in a tent.

Nurse Practitioner, Emergency Department
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaDoctor of Nursing Practice student, Fitzpatrick College of Nursing

I am a DNP student at Villanova, working at the frontline as a CRNP in the Emergency Department of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
I have always been a passionate advocate for my chosen profession, but I can honestly say I have never been prouder to be a nurse than I am today. Working with all my amazing colleagues as they step up to this unprecedented challenge has been a privilege.

Yes, we are scared for ourselves, our families and our patients; however, the true face of courage is doing what needs to be done despite the fear.

Villanova nurses are well prepared for the critical thinking, leadership, flexibility and heart that will help to win this battle.

Casey Lieb ’13 BSN, ’17 MSN

Female nurse in the hospital

Clinical Practice Leader
Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Philadelphia

I am actively helping prepare staff for an influx of COVID-19 patients by educating nurses and CNAs on proper isolation precautions as well as ensuring all staff are fitted for proper PPE. I am also coordinating with other members of the nursing education department to develop a plan for utilization of different nursing personnel in varying areas of the hospital.

Amanda Cassidy ’18 BSN, RN

Female nurse stands outside Emergency Department.

Staff nurse, Emergency Department
Bellevue Hospital (NYC Health + Hospitals), New York City

It’s been a long stretch of nights working in our COVID unit and we have now run out of ICU beds, so we are caring for all of our otherwise MICU-bound patients right in our emergency room.

Needless to say, it’s been a lot of learning and brushing up on skills that we seldom use in our ER. Grateful to have had such a great education through the College of Nursing where I was not only exposed to, but also had the opportunity to care for patients needing higher levels of care. Many of the skills I learned in school, I still carry with me today. While the worst is still ahead of us, the kindness I have received from the entire VU community has kept me fueled, and I will continue to fight for my patients and the people of NYC. I’ve never felt more proud to be a Wildcat.

We’re hot. Our faces are dry and itchy from having to wear the same mask for an entire shift. We’re breaking out under our face shields that we’ve been using for the past week because the goggles they gave us are hurting our faces. We are tired. Many of us staying significantly longer than our scheduled shifts and coming in to work overtime because no amount of staff seems to be enough staff. We are running mostly off of caffeine and adrenaline.

But we show up. We hold your hand because we know you’re sick, and scared. We’re scared too. We laugh with you over silly things, because if we didn’t, the tears would surely come. This is our city and we won’t give up on you.

The outpouring of love we’ve received touches every single one of us and we are here for you, New York. And, we will continue to be here for you ’til the worst is behind us.

Never been more proud to be a #villanovanurse. V’s up from the Bellevue Hospital ER here in NYC.

Maggie Cunningham Swietlik ’86 BSN, DNP, RN-BC, NEA-BC, CPHIMS

Nurse executive sitting at her work desk.

Vice President and Chief Nursing Informatics Officer
Inova Health System, Falls Church, Virginia

As the VP/CNIO at Inova Health System when COVID-19 hit, it was time to pivot and help in any way possible. Basically, the idea was to utilize existing technology to support staffing across the health system and cross training teams to support in a time of crisis.

Current informatics projects were placed on hold and as a system leader, I stepped into the system’s COVID-19 coordination center to see how best to use my skills. As a former call center nurse in Philadelphia I found an opportunity to assist by establishing a formal triage call center dedicated to the triage of patients experiencing symptoms consistent with the virus. The Nursing Informatics team was quickly cross trained to handle triage calls and in two days was training other displaced nurses in telephone triage. In addition, once triage was established, I helped establish a centralized staffing office to support nurse leaders in the five system hospitals in the coordination and reallocation of clinical resources to where they are needed most.

Franscico Díaz, MSN, GNP-BC, CDCES

Male nurse stands in NY hospital with mask covering his face during COVID-19 pandemic.

Doctor of Nursing Practice student, Fitzpatrick College of Nursing
Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Diabetes Care and Education Specialist
Mount Sinai Health System, New York City

New York City was declared as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic the weekend I left my husband upstate to avoid exposing him to COVID-19. On my first day back to work, I was informed that a second colleague had called out sick. This announcement meant that I would be covering for two sick colleagues with respiratory symptoms. Eventually, an attending physician was added to the list of call outs. This unprecedented event required me to orient to acute respiratory care to be repared for the sudden surge of patients in need of ventilator care.

Telemedicine was instituted to promote social distancing, decrease exposure to vulnerable populations and protect personnel. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a paradigm shift in patient care. Thankfully, telemedicine is allowing me and other APRNs to see and treat our diabetic patients. The changes we are making now to care for our patients are going to be the new way of caring for our patients in the future.

Nursing is responding to COVID-19 by being innovative, learning additional skills, and using our expertise to serve our patients. Many states are allowing APRNS to practice to their full scope of practice.  It is my hope that the APRNs who were given full scope of practice due to COVID-19 will continue this practice after the pandemic.

I am looking forward to implementing my DNP Scholarly Project Geriatric-Sensitive Inpatient Diabetes Management: The Impact of an Educational Intervention on Frailty on the Healthcare Teams’ Knowledge and Self-Confidence to further support our patients.

Hope Megan ’15 BSN, RN

OR nurse, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, Atlanta, GA

It has been a very interesting experience working in the OR these past few weeks. I take care of patients as young as a day old to college age. My goal is to protect these patients from this virus and bring them the best care possible.

I was part of the first surgery for a suspected COVID case at my hospital. As a team, we looked out for each other and brought excellent care in such a scary situation.

Villanova Nursing has inspired me to follow my dream of becoming an OR nurse, to step out of my comfort zone and to never stop learning and challenging myself. Nurses have to be fearless, regardless of their patient’s circumstances. We have to be their advocate and provide them with the best care possible. Working in the OR of a pediatric hospital, I not only have to provide exceptional care to my young patients but I have to ease their fears and their families’ concerns. Building trust and having compassion, excellent communication and understanding were all concepts Villanova Nursing has taught me well.

I hope all Villanova nurses who are on the frontlines stay safe and healthy!

I proudly wear the Villanova ‘V’ on my badge at work!

Kelsey Hanlon ’11 BA, ’12 BSN, MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC


Midwife, OB triage
Virtua Voorhees Hospital, Voorhees Township, NJ

Last night, walking into work, I couldn’t help but juxtapose the blossoming trees and singing birds to the feeling that the world is crumbling around us. As a pregnant health care provider, everything feels particularly heavy.  My heart aches. It aches for fellow healthcare providers as they use makeshift protective equipment, feeling let down by a system that is, quite frankly, failing; as they risk their own health for the health of others; as they struggle to find calm in the midst of the storm that is unfolding. It aches for fellow expecting mothers as they scramble to reenvision their entry into motherhood without the presence of their loved ones; as they cancel mother blessings and baby showers; as they face the challenges of the early postpartum period, a time that can be raw and isolating as is, feeling even less supported.

It is difficult not to worry about this virus’s potential implications on my own life: that exposure at work and inadequate protective equipment will make me and my family ill; that it will prohibit me from feeling the tender touch of someone else’s warm skin on mine as I labor to bring my second baby earth side; that our families won’t be able to travel to support us and love on Dot; that I’ll enter this new phase of motherhood from a place of anxiety, sorrow, exhaustion, and loss instead of empowerment and joy. I have been struggling to balance these fears with the recognition that the only place I can truly be is right here, right now. This gives me great empathy for my patients, but it also aches in the deepest places.

Last night, I cared for a new mother who had not planned to have an unmedicated birth, but her labor had moved along rather quickly. She kept saying she felt so weak, that she couldn’t do it. But her innate strength and wisdom in those moments brought me to my knees. Being invited into the holy space of her labor dance felt so sacred. And for the first time in many days, bathed in that holiness, I felt removed from the chaos engulfing us right now. The world may be crumbling, but women everywhere are bravely bringing babies into the world, trees are blooming, birds are singing. Hallelujah anyway.

These stories are the perfect antidote to reading and watching and listening to all the bad news that is out there.

If you would like to read more, here is the link. Special thanks to my colleague and Professor of Nursing at Villanova, Nancy Sharts Hopko, for making me aware of this wonderful collection of stories.

Stay safe, and thank you to all the helpers out there…

32 thoughts on “I Couldn’t Be Prouder of These Villanova Graduates and Students

  1. The real heroes and heroines of this crisis. I’m glad you are showing your pride in these young people and your university. Our future is in good hands.


  2. what amazing people, each and every one of them. you have reason to be proud, thank you so much for sharing them with us


  3. You are correct, Jim. Those are exactly the type of stories I need to read in order to maintain some balance in my perception of the changing world around me. Thanks for sharing some of the bright spots in a dark and dreary time! You have every right to be proud of your university, its student body, and the alumni around the world.


  4. A wonderful read, Jim such dedicated individuals putting their safety and needs on the line.. Bravo to all of them and their colleagues you should rightly be proud and so should they…It was something I needed to read and which gave me hope in these scary times..


    1. Agreed. all of these people need big raises. Makes you think twice about why athletes are paid so much when what they do is not considered essential..


  5. Very inspiring stories Jim! I feel for all the frontline workers everyday, and especially during this challenging time.


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