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Forest Park Nursing Student Learns on the Job

Monday, June 28, 2021


Dalton MathisDalton Mathis has always kept a busy schedule, and it’s one of the reasons he’s at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, studying to become a registered nurse.

“My dad had kidney failure and I took care of him when I was in high school,” Mathis said. “That led me to go to nursing school because if I can do that for my dad, I can do it for anyone.”

Now, with his father healthy after a kidney transplant, Mathis can focus on helping himself and others. He carries a full load of classes while also serving as a tech 24 hours a week at the St. Clare Hospital emergency room.

Though his efforts are no longer for a loved one, his dedication remains the same. It’s because of his hard work that the Fenton-based hospital recently honored Mathis, 24, with the Essential Partner Award.

In announcing the award, St. Clare posted the following on its Facebook page:

Mathis holding his award“The Essential Partner Award is given to a staff member who is not a nurse, but directly supports nursing. While Mathis is working in the emergency department, he has the ability to change his hat in seconds. He goes from being a tech, to a secretary, to a sitter without complaint. He is willing to take any assignment he is given whenever he comes in. We appreciate everything he does for our emergency department.”

Stacey Freshman, who holds an associate degree in Paramedic Sciences from STLCC-Forest Park and an associate degree in Nursing from STLCC-Meramec, is a charge nurse at the hospital who often works with Mathis and nominated him for the award. She said his work ethic is phenomenal.

She calls Mathis a “teddy bear” who always has a smile on his face and is always willing to do whatever is needed, but never afraid to ask questions or admit he’s uncertain how to do something. He also has a great bedside manner and, as far as Freshman is concerned, is “perfect.”

“By being there he learns,” Freshman said. “I think he wants to know more about everything, and he retains it and he will go do it. You can tell he wants to know, and he wants to know because it’s important. He’s very self-sufficient.

“I wish we could just have 10 more of him.”

Mathis said he’d recommend anyone pursuing a nursing degree find a way to juggle working while going to school. He said what he has learned at the hospital, even though not serving as a nurse, has perfectly augmented what he’s learning at STLCC-Forest Park.

Karen Mayes, Director of Nursing Education, couldn’t agree more.

“We encourage all of our students to gain hospital experience to increase their comfort level in the patient care environment,” she said. “Ideally, students will have strong mentors who go above and beyond to assist with learning, such as Dalton has.”

Mathis chose Forest Park because it was able to admit him right away when he was ready to go to school. Mathis, who is scheduled to graduate in December, said despite the nearly 40-minute drive from his home in Pacific, it’s been a great decision to attend the College.

“I love it,” he said. “The teachers are nice, they’re very helpful and the way they teach has helped me succeed.”

But working in the hospital setting proved especially important during the pandemic, during which some clinical hours were canceled. The nearly firsthand experience he received at the hospital has been invaluable, he said.

He’s still allowed to draw blood, administer EKGs and do other functions that he’ll do as a nurse. But he’s never far from someone who can show him more.

“I work basically alongside the nurses and if I have a question about what they’re doing I can either ask the nurse and they’ll explain it or the doctors are willing to help,” Mathis said.

“It really kind of opens your eyes on what happens in the field,” he continued. “Not everyone coming into the program has experience in the nursing field. Getting your feet wet helps in the long run. Plus, if you’re a good employee and your boss likes you, you might have a job when you get out of school.”

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