We’re proud of the ambitions and accomplishments of our students and alumni – learn some of their stories in our monthly feature:
Briana Matilla ’25
Bachelor of Science in Nursing program
After high school, Briana Matilla worked as a Patient Care Assistant in a hospital setting and later as a Certified Nursing Assistant in a retirement home. “Working with residents and patients sparked something in me and I knew that I wanted to continue my education and pursue a career in nursing,” she shares. “I was curious and wanted to do more than I was allowed to do as a nursing assistant.” Briana enrolled in our four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, choosing PA College based on our strong reputation within Lancaster County and the health care community. She continues to work part time as a Patient Care Assistant at Women and Babies Hospital while attending school.
Briana’s background is Mexican and Cuban, and Spanish was her first language. Her favorite class has been “Diversity and Cultural Care.” She values learning about ethical practices and how to be culturally aware in her patient care. After earning her degree, Briana aspires to work in Pediatrics. “What attracts me the most to Pediatric Nursing is that it is a combination of both my fondness for kids and my desire to be a nurse.” She adds: “I just want to do my best and help wherever I can, even if it is just little things like changing linens, helping someone with their pain or making sure someone is comfortable. I think some of the little things that can be overlooked are what make the world a better place.”
Being the first in her family to go to college means a great deal to Briana. “I am beyond proud of being able to attend college and I know how privileged I am to be here,” she explains. I will be the first out of a very big family to have a bachelor’s degree. I celebrate being the first-generation college student and I am grateful for all the experiences and opportunities I’ll have in college.” Briana hopes to one day continue her education with a graduate degree. “Furthering my education is an amazing self-investment and I will continue to expand my knowledge for as long as I can,” she adds. When she’s not in classes, or busy studying, Briana loves spending time with her boyfriend, family and friends.
Jessie Dombach ’22, RRT
Respiratory Therapist, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health
Encouraged by her mother, a registered nurse, to pursue a career in nursing, Jessie Dombach spent time observing a variety of health care providers and patients and was initially drawn to Critical Care. After her father passed away due to heart failure and other comorbidities, Jessie decided to pursue Respiratory Care, noting: “It was at that time that I started to feel that imaginary string drawing me closer to the path that I’m on now.” Jessie worked part-time as a Unit Clerk in the Intermediate Care Unit at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital while attending PA College and graduated in August 2022. Of this important personal achievement, Jessie notes: “With the love and support of my family I was able to complete my program while working part time and coming home to my husband Daniel and our three beautiful children, Maisey (2 ½ years old), Wyatt (6 years old) and Leslie (8 years old). It was definitely a juggling act with school, work and family, but it was all worth it. This degree allowed me to take the next step in my journey of health care and helping to heal people in a meaningful way to me.”
Today, Jessie works with patients of all ages at both Lancaster General Hospital and Women and Babies Hospital. She shares: “I try to treat everyone I come in contact with, regardless of who they are, with respect and dignity. I can’t say for sure if I have made a lasting impact on a patient’s life, however, there are patients I have learned need some extra time from me. Whether they are non-verbal due to a tracheostomy, victim of a cerebral vascular accident or just not able to be home with their loved ones on Christmas Day, they deserve our time and to be heard. And these are usually the patients that end up having a lasting impact on us as health care providers.”
In late October 2022, Jessie volunteered on a two-week medical mission trip to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania with a program named Cardio Start International. This organization specializes in cardiac surgery in areas of the world where their education and resources are in great demand. “The education and knowledge in respiratory therapy in particular is especially lacking and I felt a great need to share what I have learned at PA College from faculty Joel Benner, Jim Christie and Janelle Hess,” Jessie explains. Eventually, Jessie plans to continue her education at the Bachelor’s degree level, and is interested in management roles within Respiratory Care as well as work in Perfusion or as a Physician Assistant.
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!