Commencement 2012 – Retired firefighter will graduate from URI with international experience, master’s degree in nursing education

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 7, 2012 – When Mike Clark began his career as a Providence firefighter in the late 1980s, he never imagined that 25 years later he would receive a master’s degree in nursing education.

He was also not planning on walking across the stage at the commencement ceremony, but an ironic chain of events changed his mind. Clark’s parents died when he was a child, and his dad always told him that he knew his son would graduate from college someday and become successful. This year’s graduate student commencement will be held on May 19, the anniversary of Clark’s father’s death. He took this as a sign that he should celebrate his accomplishment.

Clark, the youngest of five siblings, comes from a family of nurses. He said that he and his siblings helped raise one another and one of his sisters, who is also a nurse, inspired him to pursue that career. The two work together today at Rhode Island Hospital, where he has been for the past 11 years. Clark learned later in life that his mother also put herself through nursing school. His family will congratulate and support him at the commencement ceremony.

While working to become a lieutenant on the Providence Fire Department, Clark also earned associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing from the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College. The North Providence, R.I. resident went on to work in the emergency room in Roger Williams Hospital and later Rhode Island Hospital. For about seven years, Clark was busy working in two worlds, firefighting and health care.

Clark worked as a nurse and held a management position at Rhode Island Hospital. He then decided to retire from the fire department in 2008 and enroll in the University of Rhode Island’s graduate school of nursing.

While pursuing his master’s degree in nursing education, Clark learned about an international nursing program run through Salve Regina University. Students travel to medical clinics around the world for two weeks, gaining experience working in underprivileged countries and earning academic credit. Last summer, Clark attended the program in Belize as a mentor to Salve undergraduate students and as a graduate nursing student. Clark and the other students woke up before sunrise every day for a two-hour bus ride to the clinic. They worked with patients who had suffered injuries that aren’t common in the Northeast, like crocodile bites and machete wounds.

“Working in Belize was a really fun learning experience,” said Clark. “I was able to see how medicine is practiced with minimal tools. It’s a simpler form of medicine, but it works. Their facilities are very different from ours in the United States, but the staff members do a great job improvising with the resources they have.”

As an additional part of his graduate study, Clark developed a disaster simulation program with Joanne Costello, a nursing professor at Rhode Island College. Clark began visiting Costello’s classes as a guest lecturer for several semesters before creating the program. Students in the class acted as staff or patients in a clinic, learning how to deal with a fictional small pox outbreak. Clark analyzed how the students handled a stressful situation and facilitated a group discussion afterward.

Clark has also worked in the patient simulation center at URI’s College of Nursing. The simulated mannequins, which are infused with the latest technology, can speak or bleed at the touch of a keypad. They provide great hands-on experience for nursing students. After graduating, Clark hopes to continue working with students in a simulation laboratory setting.

This release was written by Danielle Sanda, an intern in URI’s Department of Communications and Marketing and a public relations major.

Commencement Information