Erik Tiernan graduated from Brookdale Community College’s nursing program in 2011. While he has a successful nursing career working at two major trauma centers, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t lost the desire to keep learning. Tiernan recently started taking classes at Brookdale again to refresh his transcripts in order to pursue a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) degree. When he was unable to take a chemistry class he registered for due to starting a new job, he decided to donate the unused CHEM 101 kit to a Brookdale student in need.
Initially after high school, Tiernan choose to go to Brookdale because of its affordability. “Brookdale provided the financial opportunity for me to obtain a college degree,” he explained. “The cost of school was definitely a burden for me, and looking back, working and going to school at 18 years old was extremely stressful.”
While Tiernan started Brookdale as a psychology major, when his sister started the nursing program and spoke highly of the classes and education she was receiving, he decided to attend an information session. After that session, he joined the waitlist for the nursing program.
“The program was competitive and rigorous but rewarding,” said Tiernan of Brookdale’s nursing program. “All of my clinical instructors and nursing instructors were extremely helpful,” he said.
“More than anything, though, my classmates in the program were the most helpful. The study group I was a part of at Brookdale was amazing and truly helped me succeed. We pushed each other, creating a healthy competition between each other and had lots of laughs in the process. Many of us have kept close relationships and are all very successful in our nursing paths,” he said.
“I first realized how extensive our nursing preparation was when my classmates and I sat in a review with students from other well-known nursing programs in the tristate area. We knew every answer during the review,” Tiernan said of the Brookdale students. However, the same was not true for students from other institutions.
After graduating from the nursing program at Brookdale, Tiernan passed the National Council Licensing Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and became a Registered Nurse. “The knowledge I got during my time as a nursing student at Brookdale not only helped me pass my boards on the first try, it also provided me with a rock-solid foundation to build my education on.”
After Brookdale, Tiernan began his successful nursing career and continued his education. He is board certified with three national certifications: Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), and Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN). He completed the Trauma Nursing Core Class (TNCC), the Advanced Trauma Care Nursing (ACTN) course, and earned his BS in Nursing from New Jersey City University (NJCU). “I’ve grown into a well-rounded nurse focusing in the areas of Trauma, Emergency Care, and Surgical/Transplant Critical Care,” he said. He currently works full-time at University Hospital Newark in the Surgical ICU and at Jersey Shore University Medical Center as a Critical Care Float Nurse.
While Tiernan has a lot of experience in the nursing field, he said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way nurses practice. “Although I’ve experienced many challenging obstacles, I never thought I’d live and work through a pandemic of this scale. COVID-19 has brought forth challenges we haven’t seen in modern times,” Tiernan said. “We are learning how to better care for people every day; it’s incredible to see how much we have learned in a year,” he said.
Tiernan decided to continue learning and pursue a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) degree. “These programs are not only challenging but very competitive and require some science and research-based classes to be completed within 10 years.” He decided to return to Brookdale to take science classes as well as math and writing courses to help prepare him for the Graduate Records Examinations (GRE). Last semester, he registered for a CHEM 101 course at Brookdale. “Unfortunately, I tried to take the class in the 11-week semester while starting a new job and during a pandemic as a nurse, so it didn’t work out,” he explained.
Tiernan purchased the CHEM 101 lab kit before he realized he would be unable to take the class, but he didn’t want the kit to go to waste. “The kit was comprehensive but expensive. I know I wouldn’t have been able to afford this kit when I first went to Brookdale without a lot of tips and never during a pandemic,” he said.
“No one prepared me for the cost of the materials for class, and that deterred me from taking classes that I thought were interesting because I had to focus my financial means towards the degree requirements,” Tiernan said about his first experiences as a college student. “I wanted to donate the kit so a student would have a little less financial stress,” he said now that he has the means to help others who are starting college.
If you would like to help a Brookdale student in need, please visit www.brookdalecc.edu/advancement/brookdale-foundation/ to find out more about the Brookdale Foundation.