Shalena (Blocker) Griffith ('18) is a member of the Alpha Class, the first-ever co-hort to graduate from the Ronald and Marvel Jones School of Nursing.
Griffith is also the first-ever recipient of nursing’s Service Award, foretelling what has already been a nursing career of serving people who need it most.
Following graduation, Griffith spent three months on a mission trip in southeast Asia, doing wellness education and check-ups at a children’s home while simultaneously sharing the good news of the Gospel. She now works as a rehab RN and is pursuing her master’s in acute care pediatrics.
Read more about Griffith’s early nursing career experience,, including being in the frontlines of a pandemic.
What has been your career path since graduation and where are you working now?
Since graduating I took a 9-month break and for 3 of those 9 months, I was in southeast Asia on a mission. There I was able to do wellness education, and well-check ups at a local place they call a “children’s home” which would almost translate to an orphanage. The rest of the time we did cultural immersion and spreading joy and Jesus to anyone who visited or places we went.
When I came back I applied for jobs at my local hospital where I accepted the role as a Rehab Registered Nurse (RN). Ten months in, I decided to go back to school for my MSN in Acute Care Pediatrics.
Eventually, I want to work in the ER, a clinic, and go on missions helping women and children who are most vulnerable. So far I am in semester 2/9 and I love the collaboration, learning more in depth about disease processes.
Speaking of being a “new” nurse, a lot of your time in the profession has been during the pandemic. What has that been like?
Being a Rehab RN at the beginning of the pandemic was scary because I work with a patient population that spends weeks or months in the hospital while they do physical, occupational, and speech therapies. When visitor’s restrictions hit most healthcare establishments our patient families could no longer see them and support them. A lot of the patients expressed loneliness. Those who already have dementia or some other psychological issue acted in ways that required more staff and more one on one time with our patients.
I learned at a much quicker pace due to more experienced staff being deployed to other “hot” units, leading me to become Charge RN within my first year. Because of my hospital affiliation, I had to quarantine away from my family. Like many people, Zoom was—and still is—a family favorite.
It’s weird now, looking back my first year and it feeling “normal” to be working in a pandemic setting. At first, there was fear. Now, there’s lots of room for peace as I have learned and grown into my RN role.
How did Concordia prepare you to be an RN? Do you recognize a difference at all in your approach than perhaps other nurses around you?
There’s a huge difference between my Concordia education versus my peers. Our in-depth simulation covered a plethora of difficult scenarios and helped me with immersion of concepts and practices. Also, our professors were diligent on providing us with the most relevant work and education in the field. What I learned stuck, and I knew we were always learning with a purpose.
"Concordia's holistic education gave me the leadership skills, confidence, and knowledge to succeed in my early career as a nurse. I truly rave about how hands-on my education was and how I learned important concepts that now translate to my current work." —Shalena (Blocker) Griffith ('18)
I also would like to highlight a simulation that we did within one of our last semesters. We completed an epidemic readiness simulation. At the time it was fun and interesting to see how to reach communities for important vaccinations based on cultural beliefs. Now, I’m sure a lot of us are walking through the pandemic in PPE trying to educate and protect our community.
I see a lot of general skill practice preparedness in Concordia students. I feel our clinical experiences were uniquely organized and with intention compared to some of my coworkers.
I would say that Concordia’s holistic education gave me the leadership skills, confidence, and knowledge to succeed at my first year of nursing. I truly rave about how hands-on my education was and how it helped me learn important concepts that translated to my current work.
Learn more about Concordia University Ann Arbor’s Ronald and Marvel Jones School of Nursing at cuaa.edu/nursing.
— Rachel Thoms served on Concordia University's Strategic Communications team from 2015-2022. Any inquiries about this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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