Military Veteran Found Supportive Environment at Duquesne University

Navy man on ship deck

Petty Officer, Second Class, Zach Kruger served in the U.S. Navy for four years as a Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical), mainly working on engines and turbines for different water vessels. While still enlisted, Zach began to think about a career after the Navy. A career that would allow him to continue to give back and serve. A career like nursing. “I chose to become a nurse for the personal satisfaction of helping others, the job market, and the diversity in the field,” says Zach. “If you ever get bored, you can always try a different area of nursing!”

Prior to joining the Navy, Zach had already earned a bachelor’s degree (Criminal Justice), so he was interested in an accelerated nursing program that would allow him to enter the job market quickly. He compared a number of programs and schools, and he chose Duquesne University, a military friendly school, for the following reasons:

The High First-time Pass Rates on the NCLEX-RN Exam

“For a nurse, passing the licensing exam (NCLEX) is the priority,” Zach explains. “Duquesne is always in the high 90s percentile for its first-time pass rate and that is attractive.”

The Yellow Ribbon Program

Zach chose Duquesne when he learned the school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program. The Yellow Ribbon Program, a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, enabled Zach to attend “a well-known, respected university” tuition free. “The other academically competitive schools were overshadowed when I saw that I would have to pay thousands of dollars to attend,” Zach explains.

The Level of Support

Zach spoke with Don Accamando, director of the University’s Office of Military and Veteran Students, about six months before he left active duty service. Zach says that Don “gave me tips about what I should expect and how to best prepare for both civilian and student life. He reached out to see that I had all of the information I needed in order to be successful, regardless of which university I chose. That made it easy to feel comfortable with my choice.”

Zach was also able to meet with student veteran representatives and various university staff during the University’s Military Acceptance Day.

“Veteran students are inherently different than traditional students and require different services,” Zach explains. “As a veteran student, there is very specific paperwork that needs to go to the right people. I shook the hands of the people that I needed to know, and everything went smoothly when I showed up on the first day.”

Zach began Duquesne’s Second Degree BSN program’s 16-month track in Fall 2019.

“A 12- or 16-month accelerated nursing program intimidates a lot of potential students, as it did me,” says Zach. “I chose the 16-month track because, although intense, it is a little slower paced than the 12 months.”

Although intense, Zach says he has never felt that the program was overwhelming. 

“There are busy moments, sure, but you learn to work through it and how to plan around classes. Personally, I liked the way that the program was structured.” He adds that the classes he took during his first semester provided “a strong foundation of scientific concepts and nursing practices before leading into a heavier clinical schedule in the spring.”

Throughout the last 16 months, Zach continued to feel supported at Duquesne. The Office for Military and Veteran Students sent frequent emails about upcoming events and services, including job fairs and resume assistance. And, he often frequented the Veterans Center—a student lounge for veterans. It is conveniently located in Libermann Hall, where many Nursing classes are held. Zach used the center to pass time on campus between classes, do some private studying, and socialize with other veterans.

In addition to the support he received as a veteran, Zach also felt well supported as a Nursing student.

“Faculty was there to support me every step of the way. One specific example happened leading into the Fall 2020 semester. I was confused with the option to opt for all classes being online or choosing to still attend on campus. I emailed Dr. Rost about the Behavioral Health course, and she not only emailed me with information, but she also called me so that she could walk me through the process.”

Zach completed the program in December 2020, and he already had a job secured before his graduation date. After three interviews and five different offers, Zach accepted a position with UPMC on the Neurology/Stroke floor.

He believes that his military experience helped him as a student and that it will continue to help him as a professional.  

“Student veterans have unique skill sets. We know how to carry ourselves, handle stress and work with others,” explains Zach. “The most relevant example that I have was during my first job interview. The interviewer raved and thanked me for my professionalism and preparedness. It was no more than 25 minutes, and I had a call back from the hiring manager at a UPMC facility offering me a job.” 

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