WORCESTER, Mass. - Giving new nurses the first-hand experiences they need is the goal of UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Graduate Residency Program.

Karen Uttaro, UMass Memorial director of education, said, “(Graduate students) are assigned to a particular unit, and they have a whole year to go through the program. The first 13 weeks are really the most intensive part.”

Participants work with an instructor, whether it’s in the emergency room, surgical unit, or elsewhere. For newer graduates, nursing school wasn’t normal because of COVID-19, and this program offers a chance to master their skills.

“What they would have me do is work with more critically ill patients, you know, high acuity,” registered nurse Danyel Stone said. “So, I feel like I saw a lot of different things, a lot of different traumas, and I really got my feet wet.”

Stone said watching nurses take care of her father after a terrible accident motivated her to become a nurse and enter the program.

“I just wanted to be that change in someone’s life,” Stone said. “I wanted to be able to make a difference and so I got my CNA license.”

Brittany Garlisi said she always wanted to become a nurse.

“I came from finance. So it was really great for me to make the transition from people’s assets to actual people,” Garlisi said. “And that kind of really fed my passion and my heart.”

Garlisi’s message to those on the fence about applying for the program or just trying to join the field is just do it. 

“You will not regret it. Absolutely do it. Send your application,” Garlisi said. “Yes, it is competitive. But you will not have a better opportunity.”