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Elena and Olga Michelev with Dr. Marianne Hattar Pollara

The Nursing Department offers an accelerated nursing program for students who hold a bachelor’s degree and want to earn the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and qualify to take the RN licensing exam in 15 months. The accelerated nursing program was established in 2007 and the 6th class graduated this summer.

The first class graduated in 2008 and among them was Olga Michalev, who emigrated with her family from Russia in the 1990’s and came to the US in the early 2000’s by way of Israel and Canada. This summer marked a momentous occasion for the Michalevs: Three years after Olga’s graduation, her daughter Elena also graduated from the program with her BSN.

For each graduating class, the Nursing Program continues a long standing tradition in nursing: they hold a pinning ceremony. Nursing faculty Dr. Martha Highfield explained the significance. “When students graduate from the program each student is pinned with the CSUN Nursing pin that was designed by the first CSUN nursing class in 1996,” she said.

“Graduation was an exciting day,” said Elena Michelev about her graduation, “I encouraged my mom to apply for this program and now I’ve done it, too.” In 2007, Elena came to CSUN to get a Bachelor’s degree in Health Administration. “I wanted to get an understanding of the broader aspects of healthcare, but, like my mom, I really wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “I came to CSUN in March 2007 to see an advisor about the Health Administration program,” Elena said, “And while I was in the Health Sciences office I saw a flyer about the new accelerated nursing program, and it said they were accepting applications for the first cohort. My mom already had her Bachelor’s in Business Administration, but she wanted to be a nurse. So I brought her the information and encouraged her to apply.”

olga and elena michelev

Olga applied and within a fast few months, along with seventeen other students, started the accelerated nursing program. Prior to this, Olga had worked as an accountant, having earned a degree in Business Administration long before. “I missed working with people,” Olga said, “And in the accelerated program I met so many people in such a short time – the cohort has only eighteen people so we all made close friendships, I still keep in touch with some of my classmates. And the clinical experiences showed us what it would be like to work in different areas of nursing so I could really find out fast what I would be getting into.”

A typical week in the program includes lectures and clinical experiences and a very rigorous schedule. “The second semester was even more challenging,” Olga said, “When I wasn’t in class or working in one of the clinicals, the rest of my time was devoted to studying.”

“But,” Olga said, “Even though it was very hard, I have to say my professors, the nurses, and the staff gave great support, and I’m grateful for it. I have very good memories about the program,” she said. “And today I am satisfied making a difference in people’s lives. I got a nursing job right after graduation, and am currently working as a hemodialysis nurse in an outpatient dialysis center in Los Angeles.”

Elena and Olga Michelev

This two-generation success story is also a story of an American Dream: Elena said, “My father always wanted to live in the US, and my parents worked hard so that we could be here in California. I’m very grateful to them. It’s exciting now that my mother and I both have our Bachelor of Science in Nursing. And I like working with people,” Elena said. “I believe that nursing is a very rewarding career. I was always interested in learning about health related topics. Other subjects seemed forced, but studying health and nursing topics came naturally."

Mother and daughter both say they like the flexibility of being able to work in a variety of medical specialties and with diverse populations, and while Olga finds work in dialysis rewarding, Elena is still exploring which specialty areas she wants to settle into.

The variety of clinical experiences was also helpful in establishing confidence. Students perform clinical rotations facilities such as Kaiser Panorama, Northridge Hospital, Valley Presbyterian, and Veterans’ Administration in West LA. Elena added, “I did my Public Health Clinical for LA County in Lancaster. I got hands-on experience in Emergency, Medical Surgical, Telemetry, Acute Care, Orthopedic, Pediatrics, Maternity, ICU, Psychiatry, and had observation days in the OR, GI lab and Catheter Lab.”

Elena is currently awaiting the results of her licensing exams, but as graduates from the program have a nearly 100% pass rate, she said she is already thinking about what areas of medicine she will pursue. “There are so many areas that sound interesting," she said, "So I will remain open to the opportunities and see where they take me.”

- Jean O'Sullivan