To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the School of Nursing, we asked five alumni to look back on their time at PLNU and share how it shaped their nursing career.

Each alum reflected on one of the five “faithfully”s, program outcomes which have become pillars of how PLNU nursing students learn to become faithful, effective healthcare professionals in the San Diego community and beyond.

Reanna Thompson (77)

Graduating in 1977, Reanna Thompson was a part of one of the School of Nursing’s earliest cohorts. Throughout her career, she has mirrored the heart behind nursing that Point Loma holds true to even today.

One of the School of Nursing’s core principles is caring faithfully, with students learning to provide compassionate and comforting care in every circumstance. Throughout her 40-year career at PIH Health in Whittier, CA, Thompson provided the most diligent care for patients, and led other health care professionals to do the same. After starting in the medical-surgical unit, she moved to the ICU, later becoming a manager there. She finished her career as the chief nurse and chief operating officer of the hospital.

“[During] patient interactions, when you see people as all of God’s children, that’s when you switch into seeing this as a sacred interaction,” Thompson said. “At that bedside, you really are the hands and feet of Christ. You know that if it wasn’t for God’s love coming through you, you could not do it.”

Thompson highlighted what life was like as a nursing student at Point Loma College in the 1970s. Laura Mae Douglass, Ph.D., was the Dean of the School of Nursing at the time, and the way students learned was very different before modern technologies.

“At that bedside, you really are the hands and feet of Christ. You know that if it wasn’t for God’s love coming through you, you could not do it.”

“We didn’t have electronic resources— we spent a lot of time in Ryan Library, because the important resources we needed were only in hard copy. A group of us would have all-nighters where we did our care plans for our patients. It was a great bonding experience — studying, writing papers, getting up at 5 a.m., driving to our clinicals, rain or shine. Those are some really profound memories that created lifelong friendships.”

She feels optimistic about the future of PLNU’s School of Nursing:

“In the San Diego community, there’s a very high regard for graduates of Point Loma,” she said. “The reputation of Point Loma is because it’s such a comprehensive program. The standards are very high. The program is rigorous. It’s a real beacon in that community of San Diego.” 

Amanda Thurman (93)

Amanda Thurman, FNP, DNP., (93) remembers that PLNU has always been good at teaching holistic care for nurses— even before the concepts of self-care and mental health care had come into public knowledge.

Another of the goals for nursing students is inquiring faithfully: that nursing students would be advocates for their patients by asking the right questions about their patients’ health, as well as diligently asking physicians for approval of appropriate treatment. This will help them to implement the best care practices.

“The most beautiful things in nursing are all the simplest acts — the intimate acts of caring for patients,” Thurman said.

Thurman has demonstrated this both as a student and an educator at PLNU. Thurman has taught as an adjunct professor in PLNU’s Clinical Nurse Specialist program for the past 17 years, and works at the Health Promotion Center at PLNU. She is a family nurse practitioner and also teaches at Azusa Pacific University.

She started her time at PLNU in 1988 as a Spanish major, just six months after becoming a Christian. Then, while Thurman was going through personal difficulties during her freshman year, one nurse made such an impact on her that she wanted to pursue nursing.

“At the end of my freshman year, I encountered a nurse that changed my career path,” Thurman said. “Without even any test results to reassure me, she reassured me with her words and made me feel like I was OK. That changed my life.”

Thurman was accepted into PLNU’s nursing program the following year. Dottie Crummy, Ph.D., was an assistant chair of the department at the time, and would go on to be the Dean of the School of Nursing from 1999 until she retired in 2006. Thurman said she kept in touch with Crummy throughout her career.

“I was absolutely guided by God to go to Point Loma,” she said. “I’m forever grateful. I saw it played out in all of Point Loma, especially the nursing program. I still remember Dottie Crummy starting class with prayers and devotionals. And all of our professors did that. It was really important to me.”

“The most beautiful things in nursing are all the simplest acts — the intimate acts of caring for patients.”

Thurman is often impressed with the nursing students she teaches, especially those taking community health at PLNU’s Health Promotion Center, a clinic at the Church of the Nazarene in Mid-City that provides free health care to those who can’t afford healthcare. PLNU students often work there, including leadership roles for graduate students.

“It’s fun for me to hear from them what they’re learning and how the program has changed,” she said. “I think they’ve done a really good job of adding social awareness. Not just looking at the patient in terms of their illness, but who they are in the context of their life.” 

Rachelle Sey (03)

One of the pillars of the nursing program is communicating faithfully. Nurses must communicate with patients and other health care professionals compassionately and effectively.

As a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital, Rachelle Sey, Ph.D., (03) tries to understand other people’s needs in every situation. She works hard to reduce bias and stigma within her healthcare sphere, especially to provide equitable care for patients.

“Communication in a leadership role is always so important, and I always come at it from an angle of treating others how you’d want to be treated,” Sey said.

Sey’s interest in nursing began in high school. During mission trips during her spring breaks, she volunteered with a community health group that provided screenings and immunizations in Mexico. One of the physicians on that team helped her connect with an opportunity to work in a community health clinic for migrant groups her final year of high school.

Her brother went to PLNU before her as a premed student and went on a Loveworks trip to India. Through that trip, Sey connected with PLNU nursing faculty member Ruth Grendell, who taught at Point Loma from 1982 to 2000. Sey excitedly applied to PLNU and was admitted into the nursing program.

“Communication in a leadership role is always so important, and I always come at it from an angle of treating others how you’d want to be treated.”

At that time, nursing classes had recently moved from Starkey B to Taylor Hall. Although nursing was a rigorous program, Sey quickly bonded with other nursing students in her class.

“We just became a really tight-knit group,” Sey said. “I remember us doing Christmas parties together, all of the clinical experiences… it was just a very unique experience for college that I loved.”

After graduating from PLNU, she moved tto Whittier and worked at PIH Health — working under Chief Nursing Officer and fellow Point Loma alumna Reanna Thompson. She began working toward her Clinical Nurse Specialist MSN, and worked as a charge nurse, a night shift educator, and a neonatal transport nurse. She was thrilled to achieve a CNS position at Sharp Mary Birch in 2008 after she completed the program.

Sey has overseen lots of quality initiatives at Sharp Mary Birch, including a nursery that takes care of babies with neurologic injuries. She also leads what they lovingly call their “small baby program,” which takes care of babies from 22 weeks gestation to full-term, and oversees a simulations and debriefing program, which uses technology to give nurses realistic hands-on training.

Sey often gets to interact with new grads from Point Loma, and is even able to hire some of them. She’s excited for rising nurses and the wealth of opportunities to find what they’re passionate about and where they belong.

“The great thing about nursing is that you don’t have to be pigeon-holed into one thing,” Sey said. “It’s definitely a constantly-changing field with so many opportunities to find your niche.” 

Jeremy Cabrera (05)

Jeremy Cabrera (05) believes a majority of nurses have a distinct calling to do what they do.

One of the School of Nursing’s core principles is leading faithfully: to be a leader committed to serving others and knowing there’s a sacred responsibility tied to that authority.

Cabrera lives this out daily as a nurse manager at UC San Diego Health’s burn center, where he’s managed since 2015. As a leader, Cabrera believes the best way to guide and support the nurses in his unit is to feed into their strengths.

“My job as a nurse manager is to be a nurse for the nurses,” Cabrera said. “I’m responsible for patient care, but I believe the patients will get the best care possible if the nurses are getting the best care from our leaders.”

Cabrera believes support must happen both at work and outside, so that nurses can come prepared and engaged.

“They’re human beings; they’re not just nurses. My support is not just for them in the workplace, I also [ask], ‘what can I do to make your life better?’”

Cabrera saw this example being set during his time at PLNU. The school of nursing was still small, with classes meeting in Taylor Hall on the Point Loma campus. This allowed him to develop tight-knit relationships with faculty and students from different graduating classes.

“I’m responsible for patient care, but I believe the patients will get the best care possible if the nurses are getting the best care from our leaders.”

“I liked it because when they’re admitting that [number of] students, it’s very intimate,” he said. “Taylor Hall was a little community — not just the cohort but the juniors and seniors, some of whom I work with now.”

One of the most impactful professors for Cabrera was Son Chae Kim, Ph.D., who currently serves as the associate dean of the School of Nursing. Cabrera said Kim spent an hour with him after lecture explaining how to effectively write a focused nursing care plan.

“My first year, I was struggling more than I thought in nursing,” he said. “I couldn’t understand the nursing process at all. It just didn’t register for me.”

“I remember going to Dr. Kim’s open office hours, and she simplified things to the way I understood it, and to be honest, nursing was easy for me after that point.”

The care Kim took had a lasting impact on Cabrera and the way he leads the nurses in his unit.“I believe Point Loma nurses are called to do this, and their strength is caring for people. But they need to feel cared for—they need to feel supported.”

Nicole Tuitasi (20)

PLNU’s final faithfully is following faithfully. In addition to following guidelines set by the school and laws concerning nursing practice, they perform every act with a willingness to improve and adapt to a variety of circumstances.

This faithfully is accompanied by an uplifting quote from Florence Nightingale, who called nursing “divine-imposed duty of ordinary work.”

Nicole Tuitasi (20), who works as a perinatal nurse at UC San Diego Health, brings respect and dignity to every task she performs in patient care, no matter how small. Helping care and advocate for women who’ve just given birth has given her a strong sense of purpose in her career.

“As a nurse you educate [patients] and give them the courage and independence to regain those [healthy] skills,” Tuitasi said. “It’s always so satisfying to help in that way.”

She learned to care for and empower patients while at PLNU. Most of her classes were at the Liberty Station Conference Center. She says although having classes at Liberty Station did have an element of separation from the rest of campus, she still felt part of the main campus community by living on campus and experiencing other classes and events there.

Interestingly, Tuitasi wasn’t the first in her family with a connection to Liberty Station. When her father was younger, he had bootcamp at the Naval Training Center.

“As a nurse you educate [patients] and give them the courage and independence to regain those [healthy] skills. It’s always so satisfying to help in that way.”

“Liberty station was a bootcamp before it turned into the shopping center, and my dad went to that bootcamp,” Tuitasi said. “The food court was where the nursing school is now—my dad was eating there before I was even born!”

The site’s legacy of learning and leadership continues as many of the School of Nursing’s classes are at Point Loma’s satellite campus there.

Tuitasi chose perinatal nursing because she was passionate about women’s health. Tuitasi explained that some of the most meaningful moments for her are helping patients through things they may be embarrassed about.

“That’s when I really bond and joke with my patients is when I’m [helping] them in the bathroom,” she said. “My goal was ultimately women’s health in general, especially because women’s health is so a part of nature but so taboo in culture.”

One of Tuitasi’s favorite aspects is educating women about caring for themselves postpartum — to improve their quality of life during and after their stay in the hospital.

“It’s the simplest things, but at the same time, it makes a huge difference,” she said. “Helping them stand up, helping them do the simplest [acts of] self-care after they’ve delivered a baby. Relearning how to walk after an epidural or C-section. It makes them happy.” 

Toby Franklin is the copy editor for PLNU’s Marketing team. He is a reader and writer of speculative fiction and comic books.