GMercyU Celebrates the Unsung Heroes in Nursing and Education

Sometimes, the most profound inspirations are born from our most challenging moments.
BSN alumna Kaila Brown Griffenburg '21
GMercyU Senior Katie Betts (left) with mentor and alumna Kaila Griffenburg '21 at Abington/Lansdale Hospital.

Kaila Brown Griffenburg's interest in nursing was forged in middle school when her mother began experiencing what became a severe respiratory illness. For months, Kaila watched in curiosity and concern as a home infusion nurse routinely visited her home to provide specialized care. She was captivated by the nurse's compassionate expertise and positive impact on her mother's recovery.

Kaila's admiration for the nursing profession grew as her mother was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease and gradually regained her health. The experience led Kaila to shift her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian to pursuing nursing. She wanted to make a difference in people's lives, just as the nurse had done for her mother.

Once she began researching the best nursing colleges, Kaila learned about Gwynedd Mercy University (GMercyU) — and she was sold once the nurse who was caring for her mother began raving about the nursing skills of GMercyU graduates. Kaila enrolled at the university, graduated with her bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN), and is now a medical-surgical telemetry nurse at Jefferson Lansdale Hospital.

Kaila's dedication to nursing, and to the patients she cares for each day, deserves special recognition. As we celebrate National Nurses Week and Teacher Appreciation Week, GMercyU proudly celebrates the tireless efforts of nurses and educators who embody the university's devotion to excellence in these programs. These remarkable individuals give their lives to shaping minds and saving others, leaving an indelible impact on society.

Equipping students with knowledge and skills to excel

With more than 260 Doctor of Education degrees conferred, 724 Pennsylvania education-related certificates awarded, and 1,242 graduates passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become registered nurses all over the past five years, GMercyU is equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in their chosen fields.

GMercyU received its highest ranking on U.S. News & World Report's most recent list of best national universities, and 97% of its most recent graduates find employment or attend graduate school four to six months after graduation. In addition, 91.39% of its nursing students passed the NCLEX exam on the first attempt in 2023 — its highest pass rate ever.

Maria C. Jordan, a Registered Nurse and Professor of Practice who has been teaching at GMercyU since 2014, feels "intense pride and purpose" when she sees her students succeed after graduation.

"I am forever reminded of the difference that Mercy nurses make with their clients in inpatient hospital settings, the community, and the world," Jordan said. "My colleagues and I are 'nurses first' in our teaching pedagogy. We tightly connect the classroom with the clinical setting. Each lesson is an opportunity for application, for refining the skills needed for excellence in nursing practice."

TAP student
GMercyU education majors get time in the classroom starting their first semester.
Two distinct initiatives are a strong reason why GMercyU graduates are so successful: its Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP) and its Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) program, which provide high-quality training to future educators and nurses.

TAP immerses education students in the classroom from the first semester of their freshman year and provides valuable in-person experience through classroom observations and pre-student and student teaching opportunities. Beginning with the 2024-25 academic year, GMercyU's student teachers may be eligible for financial assistance through the Pennsylvania Student Teacher Support Program.

TAP fosters strong relationships between GMercyU and local school districts by connecting education students with veteran teachers who serve as their mentors. One study highlighted the impact of student teaching by showing that students mentored by highly effective teachers begin their careers with the aptitude of a third-year teacher. And at GMercyU, positivity, support, and encouragement are emphasized in teaching environments.

Mercy is a building block in inter- and intrapersonal relationships, and when students see this mercy in action in every classroom, it gets inculcated into the being of the learner," said Cheryl L. Malfi, an Assistant Professor and the Field Placement Coordinator for Undergraduate Education. "This is how we change society. When students are shown mercy all the time in every circumstance, that becomes all they know.

Similarly, the DEU program offers select nursing students a one-on-one intensive clinical experience, pairing them with nurse mentors to receive personalized guidance and support. This approach prepares future nurses for success through hands-on training and a robust professional network.

That network includes countless GMercyU alumni working in classrooms and healthcare settings across the region, as well as six former students who now teach at the university. Patricia Brown O'Hara, a Professor of Nursing, the Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students, and a Registered Nurse for more than 45 years, is among them.

I am proud to have completed my BSN at Gwynedd Mercy and feel privileged to pay it forward to my students, emphasizing the competence, critical thinking skills, concern for human dignity, communication skills, and the values of caring and compassion that I learned as a Distinctive Mercy Graduate," O'Hara said.

Soon, more students will develop those skills at GMercyU, which is committed to expanding its healthcare expertise. The state-of-the-art Frances M. Maguire Healthcare Innovation Center, which broke ground in September 2023, will enhance GMercyU's ability to prepare healthcare workers who exemplify the values of the Sisters of Mercy once it opens in 2025. The center will offer students access to modern technology and simulated learning environments while fostering interprofessional collaboration.

These innovative programs, the success of its alumni and the enhancements to an already enriching educational experience prove GMercyU is dedicated to preparing students for the challenges and opportunities they will face in their careers.

The power of personal experience

GMercyU's rigorous nursing curriculum, including immersive clinical opportunities, gave Kaila invaluable hands-on training.

Kaila participated in the DEU program and worked alongside seasoned nurses and interdisciplinary teams at Jefferson Lansdale Hospital during her rotation. She encountered various clinical experiences, learning how to manage a unit, help other nurses coordinate care and lead communications with physicians. And, as a result, she passed the NCLEX on her first attempt and was hired full time at the hospital immediately after graduation.

If I had not been in the DEU program, being exposed to those situations as a student, I would not have been able to act as quickly when working independently in my position as an RN," Kaila said.

Through Kaila's story, and those of other alumni like her, we can see the tangible impact of GMercyU's commitment to excellence. Its graduates are skilled professionals and compassionate leaders who make a difference in the world.

Let’s honor the tireless work of teachers and nurses today — and every day — and let them know we appreciate their dedication to making our lives and communities a better place.