James Madison University

The Dedication of the ROTC Nursing Students

By: Lori News
Posted: April 24, 2014


Imagine the alarm blasting you awake at 4:45a.m. three days a week. You throw on your uniform, strap on your running shoes and head to 5:30a.m. physical training where you break a sweat before the sun rises. Now, imagine you are also working in a hospital with the intense pressure of caring for patients. You are a JMU ROTC nursing cadet.

ROTC students are all too familiar with this early morning regimen that becomes second nature to them.

Nursing and military leadership minors go through the same training as the other cadets, while also learning about leadership, tactics, time management and the Army values. There are 15 nursing cadets this year who are in various stages and years. The freshmen and sophomores will take one-credit and two-credit classes and labs respectively, plus their general education classes each semester.

“This is where the cadets are learning the foundational basics of being a leader. Usually the cadets are pulling in the neighborhood of 18 to 20 credits a semester,” explained Lt. Col. Richard Showalter, professor of military science. “It’s very difficult to manage their time and commitments, but these folks are really dedicated to becoming an army nurse and they’re passionate about what they want to do.”

During the summer after their sophomore year, the cadets get an opportunity for additional training through the Cadet Professional Development Training program. CPDT is a program that offers courses including Airborne School and Air Assault School where they learn how to jump from planes and rappel out of helicopters strapped with equipment.

When cadets reach their junior year, the workload becomes more information and practical application-heavy with the start of nursing classes and three-credit military science classes and labs for a six-credit total. It’s the first time they learn to be a platoon leader, controlling and commanding an element of 40 other cadets. Army infantry tactics are also added onto the curriculum.

Why does a nurse need to learn infantry tactics? Showalter explains, “it’s one of the simplest forms of leadership education that the Army has established.” They can then teach people how to interact with others and get them to push forward when they might be scared, tired or unmotivated.


For the first semester of the nursing cadet’s junior year they start learning about medications. They also take a skills course and are placed in a clinical setting where they learn how to deliver oxygen, give medications and start IVs.

While the state of Virginia requires 500 direct patient care hours for nursing students, JMU nursing requires the students to have 700 hours.

“They are very committed,” said Dr. Cindy Rubenstein, nursing professor. “You’re looking at students who are doing two extremely rigorous programs, but I think they meld together really well because you see that the students are outstanding leaders. They are typically the students that a lot of their peers turn too.”

Because these students are taking on two very difficult programs, senior nursing cadets are paired together with junior cadets to help answer questions the juniors might have about certain courses and how to best balance the two programs.

In the summer of their junior year the cadets get an opportunity to experience the Nurse Summer Training Program through CPDT. This three-week program with between 120-150 hours of clinical experience places the cadets in a military base hospital following a trained Army nurse and working on skills such as blood draws and catheter insertions and removals.

Arianna Tyner, senior nursing cadet, worked in Fort Bliss, Texas at the Beaumont Hospital with a Second Lieutenant/nurse preceptor.

“My most memorable moment was when a patient I had in Texas brought me a cake on the day he was discharged, and introduced me to his family,” Tyner shared. “It's really heart warming when the people you take care of appreciate your efforts.”


Rubenstein explains that the nursing professors want students to develop a strong mentor relationship with at least one faculty member, to receive career guidance and to confide in with any personal or academic challenge. She adds there’s a strong collaboration between ROTC and nursing faculty, because their goal is for the students to succeed in what they do.

“When there’s a big test that conflicts with something they’re doing, we ask how can we adapt and what can we work out. I think the students feel very comfortable coming to talk to me to help problem solve,” Rubenstein explains.

Captain Melanie Sims is a 4th Brigade Nurse Counselor in North Carolina who assists with ROTC nursing programs.

“JMU is one of the best producers of high caliber, motivated and well rounded nursing cadets that I work with,” said Sims.

She recently mentioned JMU having one of the best ROTC nursing programs in the region.

“You don’t realize how much more they’re doing and they don’t complain, that’s what amazes me,” Rubenstein said, beaming with pride.