WSU graduate nurses overwhelmingly pick Ascension Via Christi as employer of choice

Lexi Walstad is one of 121 May graduate nurses, including 39 from WSU, who have chosen to launch their careers at Ascension Via Christi's Wichita hospitals.

While Lexi Walstad always knew that she wanted to be a nurse, she also wanted to follow in the footsteps of her grandparents and older sister and attend Kansas State University, which doesn't have a nursing program.

So the Dallas native went to K-State for her undergraduate degree in Nutrition, took a gap year, then spent the next two years earning her Nursing degree from Wichita State University.

On July 12, she will begin onboarding for her new role as a registered nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, which is where she did her senior capstone rotation.

"I enjoyed the staff and my preceptor and the feeling of the unit itself, which has a more intimate patient setting," she says, adding that it was what she had wanted to do starting out, so she was really happy to get the offer after passing her boards on her first try.

Walstad is one of 121 May graduate nurses, including 39 from WSU, who have chosen to launch their careers at Ascension Via Christi's Wichita hospitals. Her decision to become part of the Ascension Via Christi family was in line with that of the majority of her classmates, according to Annie Machain, recruitment manager for Ascension Kansas.

"Approximately two out of every three graduate nurses from WSU this spring accepted offers to join our team," says Machain, noting the group was evenly split between external recruits and those already working for Ascension Via Christi as nurse techs and certified nursing assistants. Overall, Machain says, 72 of the graduate nurses are just now joining Ascension Via Christi while 49 were internal job candidates.

Machain says that several factors contributed to this year's success in attracting graduate nurses, including the efforts being made by Shaunda Rakestraw, an Ascension Kansas Nursing Center of Excellence career coach, to develop relationships well ahead of graduation; classroom presentations by nursing leaders, who played a key role in helping recruit students that believed would be a great fit for their units; and having conducted interviews early and virtually, if needed, to remove any barrier to having face-to-face conversations.

But the biggest reason, says Machain: "The superior clinical experiences that students tell us that they have had while they were doing rotations at Ascension Via Christi."

While the graduate nurses hail from nursing programs from around the state, the second largest group came from Butler County Community College, with 25 of its 58 graduates choosing Ascension Via Christi as the place they wanted to begin their professional journey.

"We are beginning the onboarding process and getting them on the schedule just as soon as they pass their boards," says Megan Page, Kansas market manager for Clinical Professional Development. The first week-long onboarding class took place the week of June 14 and onboarding classes for graduate nurses are scheduled into September.

Says Carla Yost, chief nursing officer for Ascension Kansas: "They're excited to be using their skills and training to serve patients and families and we are equally excited to have the opportunity to help nurses like Lexi grow their nursing career as a member of our Ascension family."

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