Critical thinking, critical care: Nick starts his nursing career in the ICU

Nick White, a SUNY Broome alumnus and a nurse

Nick White, a SUNY Broome alumnus and a nurse

The Intensive Care Unit is an active place, with patients facing a range of life-threatening conditions. The medical professionals who work there rank high in caring and professionalism; in short, they’re exactly the people you want in a crisis.

It’s a tough environment, but it’s also just where Nick White wants to be. A 2017 graduate of SUNY Broome’s Nursing program, he works in the ICU at UHS Binghamton General Hospital. This spring, the hospital – just like others in the area – was flooded with flu patients, and Nick was headed in to attend to the most critical among them.

“I feel it lets you give more to your patient. You can have more time to critically think about the care you’re giving,” White said of his experience in the ICU. “It’s a little more challenging and it helps you prepare for the future. I wanted to be in the ICU once I graduated.”

SUNY Broome wasn’t the first college he attended. White actually earned a bachelor’s degree in biology years before he enrolled in the nursing program, and graduated from Binghamton University in 2012. After that, he spent a few years working at the Ideal Senior Living Center and pondered a future career in healthcare.

“I was always interested in healthcare but I never had any experience in the field. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with a degree in biology,” he said.

He became a certified nursing assistant at Ideal and worked on the prerequisite courses he needed to enter SUNY Broome’s competitive nursing program in 2015.

“The nursing program is definitely pretty hard and pretty challenging, and that’s a good thing because the field is very challenging,” he said. “Certain teachers were really good at helping me integrate into the role of thinking like a nurse. It takes a lot of critical thinking. You have to determine what’s the most important thing to do for a patient.”

He forged a special connection with Professor Elaine Howard, as well as the other African-American students in his classes. The diversity at SUNY Broome was a welcome change after being the only student of color in many of his science classes at BU, he said.

“Professor Howard had that knowledge and also was an African-American woman who reached the top of her working field. I really looked up to her,” he said.

Clinical rotations helped him expand his perceptions of nursing as a career, and the many opportunities it brings. Students did rotations in nursing home and hospitals, intensive care, the operating room, psychiatric units and maternity wards, where they worked with newborns. White enjoyed working with newborns more than he thought he would, he said. The psychiatric unit, too, gave him a very different view of nursing, and made him realize the importance of interacting with patients.

Before his clinical rotation, White didn’t realize the dazzling variety of roles nurses play in many facets of healthcare. But for him, it all comes down to one essential quality: critical thinking – which allows nurses to make informed decisions at precisely the right moment.

Looking ahead

Going forward, Nick White plans to continue his education, with the eventual goal of becoming either a nurse practitioner or a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), both challenging and rewarding fields.

Binghamton University is an option, although he’s also considering SUNY Downstate Medical Center and other options closer to his family in New York City. In a way, his decision to become a nurse fulfills a dream his mother once had for herself. White’s family is from Jamaica, and his mother came to the United States in the early 1980s. She worked as a nursing assistant for a long time and ultimately wanted to become a nurse, but illness derailed her plans.

Staying in the Binghamton area, on the other hand, would allow him to keep a job he enjoys. While nursing is traditionally considered a female occupation, White is among a half-dozen male nurses on his floor. He remembers one day when all the men were working as nurses and all the physicians on the floor were female, a testament perhaps to the increasing social equality between men and women.

“I feel I’ve worked in this role for a while as far as being a caretaker,” White said.

Wherever his nursing career takes him – upstate or downstate, anesthetist or nurse practitioner – Nick White always strives to keep his skills sharp and learn something new every day. He watches and learns from the senior nurses on his unit, recognizing that experience is truly what makes a good nurse.

“My biggest thing every day, I try to review my day and see where I did something I could improve on — analyzing myself, just trying to improve every day,” he said. “It’s a tough job, and every day I try to look for some new tidbits to learn.”

Join SUNY Broome on Saturday, April 28, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of nursing! The celebration runs from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Decker Health Sciences lobby and Room 201.

At the anniversary event, enjoy a presentation, historical displays and the opportunity to mingle with SUNY Broome nursing faculty and alumni. All are welcome to attend. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

This event is occurring the same day as SUNY Broome’s Open House and Alumni Reunion. Feel free to visit either event earlier in the day to learn more about everything SUNY Broome has to offer!