We’re proud of the ambitions and accomplishments of our students and alumni – learn some of their stories in our monthly feature:

Student Spotlight

Jaime Plank ’22 ’01, RN
Student, MSN – NP program, Psychiatric/Mental Health track

Jaime PlankWhen Jaime Plank was a teenager with a baby to support, her grandfather encouraged her to pursue a career in nursing. She also found inspiration in the girl-nurse adventures she read in the Cherry Ames fiction series. Jaime says that she grew up in health care – beginning with a free nursing assistant class offered in 1990 at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital, followed by work as a home health aide, a monitor tech/unit secretary and a maternity tech. After earning her licensed practical nurse (LPN) credentials, she worked on the bone marrow unit at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and in hospice care.

Jaime was part of PA College’s (then the Lancaster Institute for Health Education) first LPN to RN bridge program which she completed in 2001. As an RN, Jaime has worked in an ICU, as a sedation nurse for endoscopy procedures, in cardiac telemetry, and in labor and delivery. She was also one of the first nurses chosen to work in the special care unit at Women and Babies Hospital. When she needed a change, Jaime worked as a mental health and substance abuse nurse and clinical coordinator. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2017, while working part time as a correctional nurse and also as an adjunct clinical instructor for LPN students.

When she decided to become a nurse practitioner, Jaime first enrolled in a family NP program at another college, but she felt like she was being taught what she already knew as an RN. Since transferring to PA College’s MSN – NP program, in the psychiatric/mental health (PMH) track, she feels well-prepared and is so happy to “be home.” As Jaime considers her future work as a NP, she shares: “Trauma accounts for so many of the struggles that patients who might see a PMH NP have. Anxiety, depression, personality disorders, even substance abuse can be rooted in childhood or generational trauma. I have seen how these individuals have been dismissed or treated as second class citizens. Treating them with respect and kindness can help them to develop a new vision for their life as they discover that they are not lost causes. Watching this growth is an amazing privilege.”

When she’s not busy studying or working, Jaime enjoys time with her flock – several parrots ranging in age from 20 years to 1 year old – and her pack – four hunting dogs. Training her animals helps Jaime to change gears and be present in the moment. “My house is loud and rowdy, but also full of joy,” Jaime adds. She also uses art to decompress and as a fundraiser for church missions – drawing, painting, and crafting her way to relaxation.

Alumni Spotlight

Mary Harnish ’19 ’14, MSN, RN
Director of Patient Safety, Lancaster General Health Physicians

Mary HarnishAfter earning her associate degree from PA College in 2014, Mary Harnish began her nursing career on the night shift at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital in the GI/GU Med/Surg unit. While later working in the Intermediate Intensive Care Unit, she became involved with committee work on infection control. While she’s proud of her time at the bedside and will never forget many of the patients she cared for, Mary shares: “I really enjoyed this [committee] work and felt like I was making an impact at a larger level – affecting all patients in the hospital, not just those on my unit or those who I personally cared for. This was what really inspired me to move in a more administrative direction.” Next taking on a role in risk management, Mary learned a lot, especially about the complexities of the hospital and health system, sparking her curiosity about all that goes on ‘behind the scenes,’ and what all of the different departments that she was learning about for the first time did.

In addition to earning her Master of Science in Nursing degree at PA College in 2019, Mary recently completed the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s (UPHS) Administrative Fellowship, a two-year program. “As a fellow, I had the opportunity to work closely with the UPHS senior team in downtown Philadelphia as well as leaders at each of the different UPHS entities,” Mary explains. The fellowship was an amazing experience that helped me grow as a professional more than I ever thought possible. I learned a ton and had the opportunity to interact, collaborate with, and learn from some very innovate and influential leaders.” Mary credits her MSN experience, particularly the applied practice and the mentorship of her advisor, Dr. Rita Wise, with helping her to succeed in her fellowship and move forward in her career.

Upon completion of the fellowship, she re-joined Lancaster General Health and is currently Director of Patient Safety for Lancaster General Health Physicians. In addition to working with practice managers, nurse supervisors, managing physicians, and staff members after events – holding Root Cause Analysis discussions, evaluating processes that may have not worked as intended, and determining action steps to ensure an event does not recur, Mary also spends a lot of time trying to be proactive and preventing events from occurring in the first place. “I am frequently assessing current policies and procedures and updating them as necessary to ensure that we are providing the safest, highest quality care to any patient that walks in one of our facilities,” she adds. “I truly love what I do, and I would not be here if it weren’t for my PA College degrees.”

Mary lives in Lancaster with her husband, one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and their golden retriever, Norman. The family loves to spend time outdoors and taking a walk together is the highlight of her day, every single day.

Seeking People of PA College

Do you know an exceptional current student or alumnus whose experiences and accomplishments would help tell the PA College story? Or someone who has overcome an obstacle or reached a challenging milestone during their PA College experience? Please email your suggested names (and identify them in one of these categories) to Karen Jenkins. Self-nominations are also welcome!

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