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Dean, Student Recognized in Salute to Nurses

Dr. Poldi Tschirch and Juanita Hardy - Houston ChronicleTwo members of the University of St. Thomas School of Nursing were recognized in a special “Salute to Nurses” feature in the Houston Chronicle on May 11.

Dr. Poldi Tschirch, dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Nursing, was named one of the Top 10 Nurses, and Juanita Hardy, a junior nursing student, received one of three scholarships available.  Both attended a Salute to Nurses luncheon on May 8 at the Crown Plaza.

Tschirch Critical to Reopening of School of Nursing

Selected to re-establish the School of Nursing at the University of St. Thomas, Tschirch was charged with rebuilding a program that had closed in 1986.

Her nominator, UST President Dr. Robert Ivany, wrote that Tschirch reopened the School of Nursing and received a flawless accreditation visit from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education as part of the national accreditation process. UST awaits confirmation in October. 

Poldi Tschirch and Jack Sweeny - Courtesy of the Houston Chronicle"Dr. Tschirch is professional to the core,” Ivany wrote in the nomination. “Completely dedicated to the nursing profession, she has a tremendous ability to collaborate with academic deans, hospital executives and students."

In building the new program Tschirch was responsible for curriculum building and creating ties with nurse leadership in community hospitals. She also was involved with fundraising, and the school now has five endowed faculty positions. 

"While we met some very ambitious fundraising goals, what was more striking was how important nursing was to the community and to our donors and contributors," Tschirch said.

Tschirch said being recognized as one of the top 10 nurses was particularly rewarding now, as the School of Nursing graduates the first class of nurses in more than 25 years.

“It places our school in the forefront, signaling our return to the Houston community,” Tschirch said. “It was particularly gratifying that Dr. Ivany nominated me in recognition of the work that I’ve done at UST. I am truly grateful for his constant support.”

Hardy Earns Nursing Scholarship, Embraces Holistic Nursing

Juanita Hardy and Jack Sweeny - Courtesy of the Houston ChronicleTschirch was also excited that the student she nominated for a scholarship won.

“I’m very proud of Juanita Hardy, who was one of only three scholarship recipients,” Tschirch said. “I think she has such a deep commitment to learning and great enthusiasm for it and that stands out,” Tschirch said. 

Juanita, a transfer student from Houston Community College, is 48 years young. She is going back to school after working for 15 years in the medical field, both as a medical assistant and unit coordinator for a medical specialty clinic.  She was a medical assistant instructor for three years.

After suffering a brain aneurysm in 2010 which left her with seizures, her doctor told her to take time off and not to do anything. She appeased him by saying she would leave work and take one class in school.

“One class turned into two,” she said. “I took more classes. Then I applied to nursing school and got accepted.”

Growing up as the third of 11 children, Hardy is used to taking care of people, which meant she didn’t get to finish a degree when she was younger.  

“I’ve always been the one who takes care of everyone,” she said. “When you’re busy, you don’t have time to think about what your problems are.”

Hardy said she’s been able to go back to school with the support of her husband and 24-year-old daughter, and the encouragement of her parents.

The Salute to Nurses scholarship adds $1,000 to the assortment of scholarships she has earned to attend UST, including the Fr. Monaghan Transfer Scholarship, Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship, Minority Nursing Scholarship, Black Nurses Association of Greater Houston Scholarship and the Foster HCC/UST Scholarship, the Boyd and Evelyn Mullen Foundation Nursing Annual Scholarship, Associated Nursing Alumni Scholarship and the Healthcare and Nursing Education Foundation Scholarship.

With one more year of nursing school to go, Hardy hopes to become a nurse in obstetrics or neurology, two areas she previously worked in as a medical assistant and supervisor. “I plan to continue using my God-given talents to help and care for others,” Hardy said.

Tschirch, Hardy Embrace UST’s Holistic Nursing Philosophy

Tschirch said Hardy was one of the students who met with the CCNE accreditation survey team and was able to articulate the school’s holistic philosophy to the visitors. Hardy said UST’s nursing approach is the best way to take care of patients.

“When I go out to facilities, sometimes I don’t see that extra touch from other nurses like you should see,” she said. “When I’m with my patients, I try to give them what they need.”

Whether it’s sitting and talking to a patient to calm her down, or delivering bedside care, she considers all of their needs, which allows her to treat the whole person and not only the disease process. For her it’s about it’s about the holistic approach St. Thomas embraces.

“I don’t think I would have received a genuine holistic education anywhere else,” she said.

While attending the Salute to Nurses luncheon, Hardy was inspired by the nurses featured in the Top 10.

“When you see nurses who are really trying to deliver the best care, and have been out there for a very long time, that’s really encouraging for new nurses, patients and their family,” Hardy said. “It is truly a blessing to see individuals who have been nurses for 30 years and still have that human touch when they care for people. Seeing that side of those special nurses brought tears to my eyes.”