Event Recap: 2024 Nursing Student Professional Development Week

Apr 29, 2024

Recordings now available from 2024 Nursing Student Professional Development Week!

The Pennsylvania Action Coalition Cohort of Exchanged Learning (PA-ACCEL) Mentorship Program invited nursing students and new-to-practice nurses to participate in 2024 Nursing Student Professional Development Week. This virtual event took place from Monday, April 22 to Thursday, April 25, 2024 offering an enriching experience designed to empower nursing students and nurses across Pennsylvania to increase students' confidence in their professional development and readiness to succeed in their transition to the nursing profession.

Post-Event Feedback Survey: We want to hear from YOU! 

Please take a few moments to complete our Feedback Survey. Your insights will guide us in planning content and logistics for next year’s Nursing Student Professional Development event! By sharing your thoughts, you contribute to the improvement of educational experiences for nursing students and new-to-practice nurses like yourself.

*Complete the Feedback Survey by Friday, May 10, 2024, for a chance to win one of up to five $50 Amazon gift cards!


Thank You to Our Sponsors

2024 Nursing Student Professional Development Week was made possible by the generous support of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and Penn State Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing.

A sincere and warm thank you goes out to both the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and Penn State Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing for their invaluable support in providing professional development opportunities to nursing students statewide. Your partnership is truly appreciated and makes a significant impact on the growth and success of our future nursing professionals!


DAY 1 - Monday, April 22, 2024:

The Intersection of Nursing Leadership and Community Health

Watch Session!

This panel provided invaluable insights and discussions tailored to nursing students and new-to-practice nurses' inspirations in leveraging nurse leadership for positive community health outcomes. Speakers shared information about programs like Nurse-Family Partnership and Mabel Morris Home Visiting Program and the AmeriCorps Public Health Nursing Fellowship, showcasing their impact on nurturing healthier communities through nurse-led interventions. They delved into the essence of Nurse Leadership and reasons why nurses should actively step into leadership roles to shape the future of healthcare.


  • Maria Mazzocchi, MSN, RN, IBCLC
    Senior Director of NFP Implementation and Quality, National Nurse-Led Care Consortium
  • Maria Mazzocchi is the Senior Director of NFP Implementation and Quality at the National-Led Care Consortium. Maria is a native of Venezuela with 14 years of experience in public health in the US. As a Nurse Home Visitor, Maria partnered with clients from different countries from South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. These interactions have supported her growth as an advocate for clients and nurses as well as in her leadership role. Maria participated in a podcast about vaccination hesitation among Hispanics and in a webinar on nurse advocacy and motivational interviewing. Maria loves to go on camping and hiking trips and, as a former professional musician, she enjoys playing music with her family.

  • Christine Simon, MPH
    Director of Workforce Development, National Nurse-Led Care Consortium
  • Christine Simon is the Director of Workforce Development for the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium. Christine received her bachelors degree from University of Delaware in psychology and criminal justice and her Master of Public Health from Drexel University for Health Management and Policy. Christine manages NNCC AmeriCorps Programs for public health and nursing national service opportunities in Pennsylvania. She also collaborates with NNCC nurse home visiting programs to develop community health clinical rotations for nursing students in Philadelphia. Christine supports a new training and referral program to increase services available in Philadelphia to parents and children around Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.

  • Thea Phim, MPA
    Senior Project Manager, National Nurse-Led Care Consortium
  • Thea Phim is the Senior Project Manager at the National Nurse Led-Care Consortium (NNCC) and helps oversee and manage the AmeriCorps Public Health Nursing Program. She thrives on working closely with members of the community, especially in assisting youth and helping their career aspirations. She actively engages with the AmeriCorps Nursing Fellowship and support other workforce initiatives at NNCC. With a background in Public Administration and an interest in nonprofit management, Thea started her career journey in workforce development, focusing on helping youth with disabilities and connecting them with opportunities. Transitioning to work with NNCC AmeriCorps, she brings a commitment to giving back to her community. As a second-generation immigrant, she is familiar with the barriers and health disparities prevalent in underserved communities. Her goal is to inspire the next generation to actively engage in service and pursue a career in public health and making a significant impact on our healthcare system.

Career Trajectory Panel I

Watch Session!

This panel delved into the careers of nursing professionals, providing insight into how students and new-to-practice nurses could become involved in different fields or specialties within nursing. From community health to nurse advocacy, from education to leadership in nursing, our panelists each offered a unique perspective on the nursing profession. Additionally, the panelists included current students in nursing school who shared their insights and experiences of navigating nursing school and their career aspirations, offering valuable perspectives for those who were embarking on their own nursing journey.


  • Patricia Slayton-Gregory, MSN, RN
    Policy Chairperson, Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Chapter, National Black Nurses Association, Inc.
  • Patricia Slayton-Gregory is a seasoned healthcare professional with over 40 years of experience. Holding a Master of Science in Nursing from LaSalle University, she has been a leader in community and population health nursing. With a background from Widener University and the Community College of Philadelphia, Patricia has held various roles at Pennsylvania Hospital, including Nursing Administrative Supervisor and Nurse Manager. She has also served as Adjunct Faculty at institutions like the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. As Policy Chairperson of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, Patricia is committed to healthcare equity and diversity in nursing. A true advocate, she champions the multifaceted aspects of nursing, both within hospitals and in communities.


  • Alanna Owens, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CCRN
    Lead Nursing Professional Development Specialist, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
  • Alanna Owens is a lead Nursing Professional Development Specialist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). During her 12-year tenure at CHOP, Alanna’s leadership roles include practicing as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and a Clinical Supervisor in the Sedation Unit. At CHOP, Alanna has led and developed educational programs for healthcare professionals. Alanna is the co-founder and Education Chair of the Multicultural Nursing Alliance at CHOP and a mentor for the Fellowship for Multicultural Leaders in Nursing Program.

Alanna Owens' Bio (Continued)

  • She is also a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Association for Nursing Professional Development, and the National Black Nurses Association. Additionally, she serves as adjunct faculty at The University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University. Alanna was the 2024 recipient of the Villanova University Inclusive Excellence Award, 2018 recipient of Villanova’s Distinguished Service Award and the Alpha Nu Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau’s Excellence in Nursing Award. Alanna is passionate about nursing and supporting nurses’ professional development by contributing at the highest level. As such, she is a PhD candidate in Nursing Science at Villanova University where her developing research platform focuses on the perception of readiness for practice among clinical leaders in nursing.
  • Jaelyn Walker
    Nursing Student, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University
    Second Vice President, Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Chapter, National Black Nurses Association, Inc.
    AmeriCorps Member, National Nurse-Led Care Consortium
  • Jaelyn Walker is a current undergraduate nursing student at Drexel University with a fervent dedication to population health. Engaged in various organizations, she serves as the Second Vice President of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Black Nurses Association and takes pride in her role as an AmeriCorps Member with the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium (NNCC), volunteering and working at Drexel University's Community Wellness HUB. As a prospective Registered Nurse (RN), Jaelyn is deeply committed to advancing healthcare, aspiring to specialize in population health, particularly in underserved communities. Throughout her nursing education, she is steadfast in her pursuit to become an exemplary nurse, poised to make a meaningful impact on communities while upholding the fundamental principles of nursing practice.

  • Nicholas Schlegel, MPA
    Nursing Student, M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, Villanova University
  • Nicholas Schlegel graduated from West Chester University (WCU) in 2018 with a B.S. in Exercise Science. He then continued his education at WCU and graduated in 2019 with a Master’s in Public Administration (M.P.A.).  He previously worked as a Student-Athlete Academic Mentor in grad school, while also serving as an intern for a local small government office. After working briefly as a Pension Analyst during the start of COVID, Nicholas later accepted a job at that local government office in late 2020. Nicholas then went on to work as a Life Enrichment Manager in the Memory Care unit of a nursing home in late 2021. While in this position he gained experience in patient care, which sparked his desire to pursue nursing. He is now a full-time nursing student at Villanova University in their 14-month accelerated second degree program, and will be graduating with his BSN at the end of July 2024.


DAY 2 - Tuesday, April 23, 2024:

Career Trajectory Panel II

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This panel extended the conversation on ways for students and novice nurses to engage with various nursing fields or specialties. Drawing from their diverse expertise across nursing specialties, the panelists shared valuable insights. Ranging from maternal-child health to nursing research, from leadership to education, each panelist provided a distinct perspective, showcasing the breadth of opportunities within the nursing profession. Panelists included former mentors from the PA-AC Cohort of Exchanged Learning (PA-ACCEL) Mentorship Program, as well as some current mentors from PA-ACCEL's Healthcare Scholars Mentorship Program, a mentorship initiative of the IBX Foundation's Healthcare Scholars Program.


  • Betzaida Medina Sasse, RN, BSN
    Critical Care Nurse, Intensive Care Unit, Jefferson Torresdale Hospital
    President, National Association of Hispanic Nurses Philadelphia Chapter
  • Betzaida Medina Sasse is a Critical Care Nurse currently serving in the Intensive Care Unit at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital. In addition to her role at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital, Betzaida is actively involved in nursing leadership and advocacy. She proudly serves as the President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses Philadelphia Chapter, promoting cultural awareness, diversity, and excellence in nursing practice within the Hispanic community. Betzaida is also committed to mentoring and supporting the next generation of healthcare professionals. She has served as a mentor in the PA Action Coalition Cohort of Exchanged Learning (PA-ACCEL) Mentorship Program and PA-ACCEL's Healthcare Scholars Mentorship Program, guiding and inspiring aspiring nurses in their educational and professional journeys. 

  • Essence Williams-Sutherland, CNM, APRN, MSN, RNC-MNN, CBC, LCCE
    Nurse Supervisor, Nurse Family Partnership Program (NFP), Jefferson Einstein Montgomery Hospital
  • Essence Williams-Sutherland is passionate about maternal child health and has been working in the field of maternity for over twenty one years. Essence is a Licensed Board-Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) and an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner (APRN). Essence currently works as the Nurse Supervisor for the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) Program affiliated with Jefferson Einstein Montgomery Hospital where she manages a team of 5 nurses and staff for an evidenced based maternal child health program in Montgomery County.

Essence Williams-Sutherland's Bio (Continued)

  • Essence recently graduated and earned her Post-Master’s Certificate from Baystate Medical Center Midwifery Education Program in May 2022. As a graduate of Frontier Nursing University’s CNEP Program, Essence received her MSN in October 2018 with a concentration in Nurse-Midwifery. Essence is a graduate of Temple University’s Accelerated Second Degree BSN Program earning her BSN in 2009. She is also a graduate of Haverford College and received her BA in religion and women’s studies with a concentration in Africana studies in 2004. She completed her Doula training at the University of Pennsylvania serving as a Doula for the Philadelphia Alliance for Labor Support (PALS). Essence is a member of the South Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA), American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), Midwives of Color Committee (MOCC) and Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) and she currently sits on AWHONN’s Editorial Advisory Board. She has also been inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.
  • Essence is a nurse mentor and member of the Pennsylvania Action Coalition Nurse Diversity Council Mentorship Program affiliated with Independence Blue Cross and the Macy Leadership Fellows Mentorship Program affiliated with Drexel University. Essence finds joy in mentoring and empowering nursing students from Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Villanova and Drexel University, respectively.
  • Onome Osokpo, PhD, MSc., MSN, RN
    Tenure Track Assistant Professor, University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing
  • Dr. Onome Osokpo is a tenure-track Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing. His program of research aims to reduce health disparities, advance health equity, and mitigate adverse social determinants of health, with a particular focus on improving self-care and transitions of care for structurally vulnerable adult populations, including Blacks and their families. He seeks to understand and address the multilevel barriers to health care—including sociocultural (e.g., language), economic, behavioral, and system (e.g., organizational)—that adversely impact the health and outcomes of structurally vulnerable adults with chronic illnesses.

Dr. Osokpo's Bio (Continued)

  • Before joining UIC, Dr. Osokpo completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded the prestigious Provost Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, and a CICADA Scholar. He also earned his Ph.D. at the same institution as a Kass scholar at the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health, a Jonas Nursing Scholar, a Fontaine Society Fellow, and a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA NIH T32 doctoral fellow. Dr Osokpo received his MSN in the Adult and Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Program from the University of Pennsylvania and his BSN from Stony Brook University. Dr Osokpo's degrees prior to nursing comprise a BSc (Ed) in Chemistry education and an MSc in Analytical Chemistry. 
  • Cecilia Zamarripa, PhD, RN, CWON
    Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nurse, Manager
    UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside
  • Dr. Cece Zamarripa is a Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) Nurse for 38 years and currently manages the WOC Nursing Department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Prior to that, Cece practiced WOC Nursing at Baylor University Medical Center Dallas, Texas; Rush University Medical Center. Cece has been involved with several WOC Nursing and Nursing Education roles. In 2010, Cece had the privilege of being the Joint Commission Resources Patient Safety Scholar in Residence. Her teaching experience includes RN to BSN program at Slippery Rock University, Community Health Nursing, clinical instructor at Duquesne University, Preceptor for nurses completing their WOC Nursing Education Program, and Course Co-Coordinator for the Wound Treatment Associate (WTA) and Ostomy Care Associates (OCA) programs.

Dr. Zamarripa's Bio (Continued)

  • Cece is involved in the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society™ (WOCN®), is a current volunteer for WOCNext Conference Planning Committee. Cece is involved in her professional specialty organization as WOCN Peristomal Consensus Panel in November 2020. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, Western PA Area Chapter for National Association of Hispanic Nurses, WOCN® Society™, the World Council of Enterostomal Therapist (WCET) and a current Board of Director for WOCN®.  
  • Jamel Mann, MHA, BSN, RN
    Board Member and Co-Chair of the Education, Scholarship, and Mentoring Committee, Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Chapter, National Black Nurses Association Inc.
    Nurse Educator and Ambassador of the Mini-Nurse Academy, National Black Nurses Association Inc. 
  • Jamel Mann is a registered Nurse with 17 plus years of experience in surgical nursing (direct patient care), Hepatology and Liver Transplantation, Oncology, Pulmonary Care, Perioperative Nursing, Nursing Leadership, Nursing Education, and Managed Care. The diverse patient populations within those specialized areas, created a professional pathway for Jamel to obtain comprehensive; clinical nursing skill sets and goals as a lifelong learner. Throughout her nursing career, Jamel has developed a passion for precepting and mentoring new to practice nurses as well as nurses that were new to a specific specialty that she worked in.

Jamel Mann's Bio (Continued)

  • Jamel was a student nurse extern at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate from The Pennsylvania State University, Certificate of Attainment in Perioperative Nursing (Delaware County Community College), and Master of Science in Health Administration from Saint Joseph’s University.
  • As a current mentor for the PA-ACCEL Mentorship program with The Pennsylvania Action Coalition, Co-chair of the Education, Scholarship and Mentoring Committee and Board Member within the Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Black Nurses Association, National Black Nurses Association Mini Nurse Academy Nurse Educator and Ambassador in addition to providing the service of education with her community, Jamel’s objective is to continue to make an impact by contributing to the professional development and integrity of future nurses within the healthcare industry. 
  • Sofia Carreno, MSN, RN
    Community Engagement Manager, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Sofia Carreno is an experienced public health nurse with a substantive background having served as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, emergency nurse, case manager, education and homecare. In her current role, she connects clinical nurses and other interdisciplinary hospital staff with the community engagement programming in the hospital. Her work includes educating staff, spearheading volunteer opportunities and events in the community, and galvanizing cross-sector collaborations on new initiatives. The focus of Sofia’s career has been on serving vulnerable populations by looking at disease prevention, health promotion, and how to leverage resources available to improve health outcomes.

Sofia Carreno's Bio (Continued)

  • Prior to becoming a nurse, Sofia worked in the non-profit sector, in organizations centered on maternal care, HIV/AIDS, youth, and behavioral health. As the dedicated public health nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), Sofia co-founded and manages HUP Harvest, which is a hospital-based pantry that has distributed over 12,000 bags of food. She serves on various committees internal and external committees and is the executive sponsor for HUPs DEI Core Council, an interdisciplinary group that promotes cultural humility, advocacy and drives equity in the workplace to improve patient experience. She serves patients by serving the community, and collaborating across sectors to assess, identify, plan, implement, innovate, and evaluate programs to improve health. 

Mental Health, Wellness, and Professional Resilience

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This session explored strategies for maintaining mental health, promoting wellness, and cultivating professional resilience in the nursing profession.

Materials from this session:


  • Dawn Jones, RN, NC-BC
    Holistic Nurse Coach, WTAHealth (What The Actual Health)
  • Dawn Jones is an established nursing and healthcare professional with over 29 years of nursing experience and a recent certification as a Holistic Nurse Coach. Dawn brings a wealth of knowledge and a renewed sense of purpose to her work. Her journey has been marked by profound challenges, including battling COVID-19 in March 2020, which led her on a soulful journey of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual struggles. Through her experiences with anxiety and a PTSD diagnosis, Dawn discovered a fundamental truth: wellness is a skill that can be cultivated. Now, she is eager to share her insights and lessons learned about resilience, innate well-being, compassion, and love, empowering others to navigate their own paths to wellness.

  • Deborah Gardiner MSN, RN, CCCTM
    Nurse Residency Coordinator and Nursing Professional Development Specialist
    Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
  • Deborah Gardiner brings over three decades of dedicated nursing experience to her role as Nurse Residency Coordinator and Nursing Professional Development Specialist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. With 33 years of service at Jefferson, she has honed her expertise, spending 15 years as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Surgery and Trauma. She is also recognized for her leadership as Nurse Co-Lead of the RISE Program, where she has contributed significantly to advancing nursing education and mentorship at Jefferson Health.


DAY 3 - April 24, 2024:

LEAD Professional Development & Speed Networking

Students learned about professionalism, strategic career mapping, networking, and how to continue professional development after graduating. This session also included a Speed Networking activity for students to practice elevator pitches with nursing professionals.

What is LEAD Professional Development? LEAD Professional Development is an innovative program Villanova University's M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing created for nursing student career development. The program prepares students to be accountable for their career path and increase their proficiency through experiential learning activities.

LEAD Professional Development Presentation:

  • Anne Fink, PhD, RN, CNE
    Associate Dean for College and Student Services
    Director, LEAD Professional Development Program
    M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, Villanova University
  • Dr. Anne Fink currently serves as the Associate Dean for College and Student Services and Director of the LEAD Professional Development Program. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings and has over 30 years of experience in nursing education. Her research agenda focuses on health and healthcare disparities of women and children. Anne has published in peer-reviewed journals, presented at regional, national, and international conferences, been a Test-Item Writer for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and is a Reviewer for The Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, the Journal of Professional Nursing, and Nursing Education Today.

Dr. Fink's Bio (Continued)

  • Dr. Fink has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Thomas Jefferson University, a Master of Science in Nursing from DeSales University, and a Ph.D. in Nursing from Villanova University. She is the current Chairperson for the Pennsylvania League for Nursing Area I, a Board of Director for the Pennsylvania League for Nursing, and will be on the ballot this summer for election as a Board-of-Governor for the National League for Nursing.

VIPs for Speed Networking Activity:

  • Barbara A. Todd, DNP, ACNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN
    Director of Practice & Education- Advanced Practice, Hospital University of Pennsylvania
    Senior Fellow, Center for Health Outcomes & Policy
    Adjunct Asst Professor of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

  • Katie Brogan
    Assistant Director, LEAD Professional Development Program, M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, Villanova University

  • Clarissa Collier MSN, RN, BSN, CSN
    Board Member and Co-Chair of the Membership Committee, Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Chapter, National Black Nurses Association Inc.

Empowering Future Nurses: Strategies for Professional Growth and Impact

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Combining insights from seasoned nursing professionals and current students actively involved in professional organizations, this panel highlighted how nursing students and new-to-practice nurses can continuously grow and evolve in nursing while transitioning from nursing school to practice. Our speakers discussed the importance of fostering a sense of collective responsibility within the nursing community and how students and new-to-practice nurses can contribute to this effort.

Materials from this session:


  • Amy H. Ricords, MEd, BSN, RN, NPD-BC
    Director of Nursing Professional Advancement, Pennsylvania Action Coalition
  • Amy H. Ricords is the Director of Nursing Professional Advancement for the Pennsylvania Action Coalition and leads the state efforts to produce a Nurse Residency program and committee for education advancement in nursing.  She is passionate about supporting nurses (whether that is with technology or education) so nurses can support our patients.  She is also the Vice President, of the Customer Experience at Sage Technology Solutions, Inc./Peak Outcomes a healthcare communication and integrations consulting firm.  She has 24 years nursing experience, ranging from acute care, home care, rehab direct care nursing, and leadership. Amy has spent the last 14 years of her career in senior nursing leadership positions with expertise in clinical education, Nursing quality, project management, and Nursing informatics.

  • Rita K. Adeniran, DrNP, RN, CMAC, NEA, BC, FNAP, FAAN
    President & CEO, Innovative and Inclusive Global Solutions
  • Dr. Rita K. Adeniran is the President and CEO of Innovative and Inclusive Global Solutions (IIGS) and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. IIGS specializes in helping organizations leverage the total capacity of their workforce for enhanced productivity and optimal outcomes. She has a compelling record as a leader and fearless advocate for the vulnerable and culturally disenfranchised. With an infectious passion for social justice, ethics of inclusion, and a spirit of graciousness, Dr. Adeniran contributes to shaping solutions to the long-standing inequities in health and healthcare. Dr. Adeniran’s consulting work focuses on capitalizing on the exceptional creativity and innovation found in diverse teams while mitigating suspicion and conflicts that are amplified.

Rita K. Adeniran's Bio (Continued)

  • Dr. Adeniran is nationally and globally recognized as a consultant, educator, and author and has shared her work at many high-level forums in over 24 countries, receiving rave reviews. She is a highly sought-after speaker and consultant for her engaging and effective speeches and readily applicable strategies that accelerate team spirit and high performance. Dr. Adeniran is a Fellow of the National Academies of Practice and the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN), the highest recognitions for nurses making meaningful contributions to advancing health and healthcare.
  • DeQuacia Catlin, RN, BSN
  • DeQuacia Catlin is an alumna of Lincoln University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and was a student-mentee in the 2022–2023 cohort of the PA Action Coalition Cohort of Exchanged Learning (PA-ACCEL) Mentorship Program. She is a distinguished member of Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority, Inc., the Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Chapter of the Black Nurses Association, Inc., and brings over eight years of experience from her tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She completed her Nurse Externship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and is a former member of National Nurse-Led Care Consortium's AmeriCorps Public Health Nursing Fellowship program. Her dedication to global public health and health literacy is evidenced by her studies abroad at the University of Ghana in Accra. DeQuacia remains steadfast in her commitment to advancing healthcare and health literacy on a worldwide scale.

  • Lauren McCarthy
    President, Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP)
    President, Widener University Student Nurses’ Association (WUSNA)
  • Lauren McCarthy is the current SNAP President. She is finishing up her junior year in the BSN program at Widener University, where she's also pursuing a minor in Allied Health. Lauren had the privilege of serving as SNAP secretary/treasurer last year and is also involved at her local chapter serving as the President this year. She also served as Fundraising Chair for two years. This summer, Lauren will be working at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia as an Oncology Flynn Fellow. Lauren hopes students learn why getting involved in SNAP is such good opportunity!

  • Maria Santana
    Vice President, Student Nurses' Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP)
    President, Pitt Nursing Student Association 
  • Maria Santana is a rising senior BSN student at the University of Pittsburgh. She was born and raised in Baldwinsville, New York, but views Pittsburgh as her new home! She is the Vice President of the Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania and serves as the President of Pitt’s Nursing Student Association. Starting in May, she will be a student intern for the Pennsylvania section of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses. In addition to her professional organizations, she is an undergraduate research assistant studying breastfeeding and lactation under Dr. Jill Demirci. Outside of school, Maria works as a patient care technician in the pediatric ICU at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Maria is excited about helping nursing students find their voices, specifically encouraging involvement in preprofessional and professional nursing organizations. She aspires to be a women’s health nurse practitioner and is passionate about providing high quality patient care and education.

  • Jaelyn Walker
    Nursing Student, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University
    Second Vice President, Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Chapter, National Black Nurses Association, Inc.
    AmeriCorps Member, National Nurse-Led Care Consortium 


DAY 4: Thursday, April 25

Acing Your Interview: Proven Strategies for Success

In this session, participants learned how to be successful in a nursing interview from prep to professional conduct. Content included creating résumés, cover letters, and professional portfolios and preparing for common nursing behavioral interview questions.

  • Presented by Anne Fink, PhD, RN, CNE
    Director, LEAD Professional Development Program
    Associate Dean for College and Student Services
    M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, Villanova University 

What's In Your Toolbox? 

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In this session, participants gained valuable insights into crafting personalized time management strategies aligned with their individual learning styles. Speakers, Twanda Toliver-Gainer, RN, MSN, and Pawn Johnson-Hunter, MS, RN, AGPCNP-BC, GERO-BC, CM/DN, offered practical guidance on overcoming the hurdles of nursing school, with a focus on navigating NextGen NCLEX challenges. Through shared strategies, participants learned to optimize their study routines and enhance their academic success.

  • Presented by Twanda Toliver- Gainer, RN, MSN
    Founder and CEO
    RN Reach, LLC
  • Twanda Toliver- Gainer is a retired Navy Nurse Corps Officer with over 30 years of nursing, leadership, and education experience. Ms. Gainer has served in many nursing capacities, including Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Manager, and Nurse Educator. She is passionate about mentoring and coaching the next generation of nurses and has presented on the topic of “Optimal Student Learning Modalities in Nursing Education and Student Success.” Her research interest includes diversifying the nursing workforce, and improving retention rates among minority nursing students.

Twanda Toliver- Gainer Bio (Continued)

  • She has also served as Nurse Residency Coordinator at Howard University Hospital; Assistant Professor, HU-Vets for Success Counselor and Recruiter at Hampton University; Traditional BSN Program Coordinator at Norfolk State University and Academic Success Coach and Clinical Adjunct faculty for both Virginia Commonwealth and South University. Ms. Gainer received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from Hampton University. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Chatham University.
  • Pawn Johnson-Hunter MS, RN, AGPCNP-BC, GERO- BC, CM/DN
    Nurse Educator, NCLEX Specialist, Mentor/Coach
    School of Community Health and Policy, Morgan State University
  • Pawn Johnson-Hunter is an adult gerontological primary care nurse practitioner, who is board-certified by the American Nursing Credentialing Center. Her present appointment is at Morgan State University’s Department of Nursing as a NCLEX® Specialist where she prepares and mentors nursing students and new faculty, while maintaining clinical practice. Pawn has a philosophy of mentorship and civility; having her career begin from a nursing assistant, practical nurse, to RN she understands the plights of each discipline. Her passion is to service diverse vulnerable populations ensuring quality care and contribute to the development of a diversified nursing workforce.

Pawn Johnson-Hunter Bio (Continued)

  • Pawn is a 2012 BSN graduate from an historically black college, where she began the trajectory toward becoming a nurse educator tutoring senior students soon after passing her board exam. In 2016, she received her Master in Nursing Education from Stevenson University and developed an interest in simulation. She is a member of the HBCU Learning Collaborative; Next-Gen NCLEX Trainer and trained mentor. Pawn’s experience spans from the bed-side to leadership, and nursing education. Her clinical experience includes acute care, subacute care, community health, and management. Pawn, contributes to the profession through presentations and maintains membership with nursing organizations, and the American Heart Association.

ABCs of Financial Fitness: Maximize Your Cash Flow for Today and Tomorrow

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Students learned about various personal finance tips such as budgeting, investing, student loans, retirement, etc.

  • Presented by Marguerite Hall, Ed.D.
    Registered Representative, Founder and President, RoMaR Financial, LLC
  • Dr. Hall became a financial representative in 2012 after assisting in the handling of her mother’s estate. Going through that process helped her realize that the decisions made by her mother were based upon limited financial education. She acquired her license in life and health insurance and Series 6, security license, while working at Mutual of Omaha. As a captive registered representative at Mutual of Omaha, Dr. Hall realized that she could better serve her clients as an independent broker. In 2016, RoMaR Financial was formed with the mission of providing financial education to clients to empower them to make an informed financial decision for themselves, their families, businesses, and ultimately community.

About the PA-ACCEL Mentorship Program

Building a mentorship program has been a long-time goal of the PA Action Coalition's Nurse Diversity Council (PA-NDC). In 2020, the PA-ACCEL Mentorship Program began as a pilot program in partnership with Lincoln University's Department of Nursing to bolster Lincoln’s nursing students’ capacity to be successful in nursing school and in their transition to professional nursing practice. With support from the Nurse Diversity Council and funding from the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action Nursing Innovations Fund award and the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, the PA-ACCEL Mentorship Program continued to flourish. It expanded to encompass two additional cohorts, providing valuable mentorship opportunities for junior and seniors nursing students at Lincoln University.

This year marks an exciting chapter for the Pennsylvania Action Coalition Cohort of Exchanged Learning (PA-ACCEL) Mentorship Program as we are supported by a grant from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation to extend the reach of our mentorship initiatives for nursing students enrolled in their Healthcare Scholars Program.  This scholarship initiative supports up to 36 first-year students, covering the entirety of their 2-year or 4-year degree programs at nursing schools participating in the Nurses for Tomorrow grant program. The PA-ACCEL Program Support Team is working with the Independence Blue Cross (IBC) Foundation to build out a mentorship program to enhance the educational journey of nursing students by providing tailored mentorship experiences, fostering meaningful connections, and contributing to their overall professional growth.