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Darren Marshall’s passion for patients kept him working for more than 35 years as an RN, despite conditions that discouraged him at times. That’s why he is so pleased that Niagara University’s College of Nursing is taking critical steps to prepare nurses to care for patients—and themselves.

Marshall, a 1983 graduate of the college, spent the vast majority of his career at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where he worked for 32 years in its mental health center. He then moved onto the hospital’s Family Medicine Residency Program, where he assisted in teaching the resident doctors proper medical documentation.

The Niagara Falls, N.Y., native had originally considered becoming a doctor, himself, but enrolled in Niagara University’s nursing program because he decided that nursing would be a better professional fit for him.

At Memorial, he worked in all areas within the mental health program and became certified by the New York State Office of Mental Health as a trainer in preventing and managing crisis situations. But the work, and the regulations, began to take their toll on him and his ability to care for his patients, so he applied for a position in the hospital’s residency program. The new job renewed his enthusiasm for his career, and he found he enjoyed “bringing along the new talent.”

“It gave me the opportunity to do a little teaching, to work with younger individuals who were excited about their careers, and I still got to interact with the patients, via telephone,” he said.

Two and a half years ago, again feeling like he needed a change from what he was doing, Marshall moved to Arizona, where he took a job as an RN at Desert Mountain Health, a private detoxification center where he serves patients not unlike those he cared for at Memorial.

“Detox is mental health,” he said, "but you’re also dealing with trying to get somebody off a substance. You have patients with trauma, mental health issues, depression… If you can find out what those bottom-line reasons for using are and are able to treat them, you probably wouldn’t have as much substance use.”

His long career in bedside nursing has made him realize how important it is for students and novice nurses to develop the skills and tools necessary to reduce the on-the-job stress and anxiety that is leading to high burnout and attrition rates among nursing in all specialties, especially within the first two years of their careers. Factors like workplace incivility, lack of supervisory support, and unsafe caseload size are leading to exacerbated emotional strain, causing new nurses to leave the field altogether, according to Jessica Okoniewski, the College of Nursing’s new resilience and resource officer.

Marshall says the resiliency program “struck a chord” with him, because he has seen how difficult the environment for new nurses can be.

“In nursing, you have to be resilient, because there’s going to be people who are going to die on you, you’re going to have setbacks, and you’re going to have responsibilities in regard to the computer work and what you have to do to document for the insurance companies,” he said. “I feel that’s what’s going to be the biggest challenge for the new grads—the environment—and I hope new nurses are being exposed to all those factors so they are prepared when they step out into the workforce.”