Longtime childcare expert Sunnyside applies skills in nursing education at LaGuardia Community College

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LaGuardia Community College was named #1 among RN programs in New York state last fall. (Courtesy of LGACC)

April 7, 2023, by Bill Barry

For nearly a decade, Chelsea Vaughan has been a familiar figure among Sunnyside families as a governess, nanny, and art teacher at the Q StudioLab on Queens Boulevard. She is known for her gentle and childcare skills, but Vaughan found herself out of a job during the “big hiatus,” as she refers to the COVID-19 pandemic. She decided to go to nursing school and applied to programs all over the country before she even got to LaGuardia Community College in nearby Long Island City.

“Because LaGuardia’s registered nursing program is so competitive, I applied to programs as far away as South Carolina,” Vaughan said. “LaGuardia was my first choice, not only because it’s the top nursing school in New York State, but because it puts nursing students in clinical settings from day one. I knew I wanted to have more of an impact on a day-to-day basis. I was working with kids and teaching painting, which I loved.” But I wanted to reach more people. I wanted to be a healer.”

The Michigan native decided to pursue nursing as a career after learning of her aunt’s experience in the hospital following a car accident.

“Her accident happened at a time when hospitals only allowed one person at a time in a patient’s room,” Vaughan said. “Her experience has shown me how important nurses are to a patient’s healing and recovery.”

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Vaughan on her first day of clinics at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue last September. (Courtesy of LGACC)

Began at LaGuardia in the fall of 2021, subject to prerequisites to apply for a nursing nomination. Now in her second semester, the 33-year-old is in LaGuardia’s registered nursing program.

“I really like the challenge of what I do,” said Vaughan. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life.”

With the help of biology professors Dr. Ingrid Ferras and Dr. Joby Jacob, Vaughan received a stipend from the City University of New York Research Scholars Program (CRSP) to conduct a research test in Newtown Creek for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Immediately, I was interested because I’m passionate about public health,” said Vaughan, one of the few nursing majors accepted into CRSP. “Interestingly, the project is directly relevant to nursing. In humans, life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or staph infections.”

The experience with the CRSP project made Vaughan interested in integrating public health or environmental research into her future career. On May 26, Vaughan will present a poster about the project at the LGACC’s CRSP Research Day, and on June 7, she will present her work at the year-end, CUNY-wide collegiate research celebration for CRSP participants.

Vaughan was a recent recipient of the Marilyn Skony Stamm and Arthur Stamm Scholar from the LGACC Foundation and is on her way to graduating with her nursing assistantship next spring.

“After completing my RN at LaGuardia, I hope to find a job that will sponsor my Bachelor of Science in Nursing,” said Vaughan. “My goal is to become a nurse anesthetist. It will be a long road, but I am ready for it.”

She added that she applies her caregiving skills and experience working with children at Sunnyside to teach nursing.

Sometimes I see patients as children. “It may sound funny, but it makes me so much more comfortable,” Vaughan said. “It allows me to feel in control and be able to provide comfort. I want to make my patients feel like we’re on the same team.”

LaGuardia’s nursing program was ranked #1 in the state last October, with courses covering nearly 75 different majors. Nurses in advanced practice are prepared to assume greater autonomy in areas such as primary care, clinical specialties, anesthesiology, and midwifery. After classroom learning, students are placed into clinical training with partner hospitals and medical facilities.

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