UD nursing student is finalist in national student of the year competition
Kate Harton

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3:08 p.m., April 27, 2010----Kate Harton, who graduated from the University of Delaware's Accelerated Nursing Program in February, has been selected as a Nursing Student of the Year Outstanding Finalist by StuNurse.com magazine.

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One of four finalists, Harton was nominated by Diane Rudolphi, clinical instructor in UD's School of Nursing.

Rudolphi tells Kate's story:

In Medical-Surgical Nursing Clinical, our students are often quite stressed as they arrive on the floors of the hospital. The bar is set high: the responsibilities seem insurmountable, instructors require a lot, and all the studying in the world does not always predict how a student will do in the “real world.”

During the first week of the clinical rotation, I was lucky to find an elderly patient with a WONDERFUL heart murmur. He was kind enough to allow all of my students to listen to his heart. The following day, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Kate. “I think my patient today has a murmur,” she said. She was right.

Sometime in the second week of clinical, Kate had a patient with a pseudo-aneurysm affecting the femoral artery. I felt that tap on my shoulder again. This time, she had discovered a right groin and abdominal bruit -- an abnormal sound in the artery -- as a result of the turbulence caused by the aneurysm.

The last week of clinical was busy. Kate had a trauma patient who had a chest tube as the result of a hemothorax (blood in the chest). The patient felt fine, had no shortness of breath, and exhibited normal vital signs. His lungs sounded slightly diminished on the affected side, but this was not unexpected given his injury.

Yes, there was that tap on my shoulder once again. It was late in the afternoon, time to leave, and Kate had a very concerned look on her face. She told me that the patient's lung sounds had deteriorated. Given this finding, she reviewed the CAT scan report and discovered that the chest tube was clotted. Since the blood in the chest was not being suctioned out, it was compressing the patient's lungs. Trauma was called again, and the issue of the clotted chest tube was resolved after we left the floor that day.

There was no applause from the crowd, and the patient never knew what a great job Kate had done. But it was one of those examples where a nurse -- in this case, a nursing student -- was proactive, advocated for her patient, and made a real difference in patient care. From an instructor's perspective, this truly was a dream come true!

It was a medical scare of her own that motivated Harton to continue her education toward the bachelor of science degree in nursing.

“I had a mole removed during the spring semester of my senior year because it very closely resembled melanoma,” Harton says. “Thankfully, it was found not to be cancerous, but the experience left me with a sense of empathy for anyone who has been a patient with a potentially life-threatening illness. I felt a strong desire to be able to help people through times of illness as a nurse. I discovered UD's accelerated nursing program, applied and was accepted.”

Throughout the program, Harton worked part-time as a nanny. “I love the challenge and creativity that is required when working with children, and I have a strong interest in pediatric nursing,” she says. “From my clinical experiences, I have discovered that being an educator is one of my favorite aspects of nursing because it empowers patients to take care of their own health.”

Since graduation, Harton has continued to work as a nanny while interviewing for nursing positions in the Philadelphia area. She is also learning Spanish because she found that a large number of patients in this area are from Spanish-speaking countries, and she has been assisting as a caregiver for her grandfather, who was recently diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.

Article by Diane Kukich

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