March 17, 2017
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Six Mount Saint Mary College accelerated nursing students
recently completed 45 hours of clinical work at Mid-Hudson Forensic
Psychiatric Center in New Hampton, N.Y. Left to right: Lisa
Viggiani ’16, Chief Nursing Officer at the center; Parminder
Bhangoo of Wappingers Falls, N.Y.; Lisa Caldwell Moskowitz of
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Theresa Christine Muschett-Diaz of New Windsor,
N.Y.; Jill Sussman, associate professor of nursing and course
coordinator at the Mount; Brittney Jones of Monroe, N.Y.; Paige
Gennarelli of Monroe, N.Y.; and Jadia Mincey of Poughkeepsie,
As part of their clinical work, half a dozen accelerated nursing
students from Mount Saint Mary College recently cared for patients
at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center (MHFPC) in New
Under the tutelage of Colleen Fleming-Damon, an adjunct nursing
instructor who teaches the Mount’s Mental Health Nursing course,
the students completed 45 clinical hours each over the course of
Forensic nurses provide specialized care for patients who are
victims or perpetrators of trauma. The patients being cared for at
the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center fall into the latter
category and can suffer from paranoia, bipolar disorder,
depression, and delusional thoughts, among other ailments.
The students provided patients with “therapeutic communication,”
explained Lisa Viggiani ’16, Chief Nursing Officer at the center
and an adjunct nursing professor at the Mount.
“They were able to initiate a conversation, engage the patients,
and terminate the conversation as part of their assignment,”
explained Viggiani. “This is not an easy task because some of our
patients have difficulty trusting and engaging clinical staff.”
Using the information they gathered from their conversations,
the students created personalized nursing care plans. The students
also educated the patients regarding their prescribed medication
“It was a valuable learning experience, which the students
confirmed based on their facility evaluations,” said Viggiani.
“They felt safe and were confident that they could use their
communication skills now that they spoke to this difficult forensic
This is the second year that Mount students have done clinical
work at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center. The Mount is
currently the only college with nursing students doing clinical
work at the MHFPC. Viggiani hopes that the center’s relationship
with the Mount will “create a recruitment process,” she said.
Jill Sussman, associate professor of nursing and course
coordinator at the Mount, noted that mental health nursing is a
core skill for those in the nursing field.
“Every aspect of nursing has a piece of psychiatric nursing,
including maternity, orthopedics, cardiac, and ER,” she explained.
“Every nurse has to know the fundamentals and basics of psychiatric
Viggiani echoed Sussman’s sentiment: “As a psychiatric nurse for
17 years, I believe utilizing therapeutic communication skills with
the mentally ill population is a valuable experience. Becoming
comfortable with talking with the mentally ill population prepares
students for practicing in any setting. “
Aside from performing very well in both the practical aspects
and in classroom work of the course, the students also took away
another important lesson, Flemming-Damon revealed.
“We have this idea of what a psychiatric patient is and it’s
usually not something that touches our own lives,” she explained.
“But it could be anything – breaking up with someone, failing a
course – that triggers an issue. And that could happen to any one
of us. It’s very important not to take our mental wellness for
At Mount Saint Mary College, nearly half of first year students
aim for health professions. As sophomores, the nursing students don
scrubs and stethoscopes and begin their clinical experience in
institutions throughout the community.
Working with about 40 hospitals and clinics, the Mount’s
nationally accredited four-year nursing degree program boasts a
high NCLEX-RN passage rate that consistently exceeds the state
For adults 24 and up, the college provides accelerated
bachelor’s and normal or accelerated master’s degree programs.