Professor Edmund J.Y. Pajarillo, PhD, in the College of Nursing and Public Health’s Clinical Education and Simulation Lab

Noting that some of his graduate nursing students had barriers to success—like tech skills or communication challenges—Edmund J.Y. Pajarillo, PhD, launched the Equitable, Targeted and Structured Onboarding Program. Read about the success of this program, and how he is now collaborating with four other universities to replicate it.

Professor Edmund J.Y. Pajarillo, PhD, remembers seeing the frustration on his students’ faces as they began their graduate nursing studies.

As graduate students, they all came into the program with different backgrounds and levels of experience. And many found it tough to get up to speed at the same pace.

“As I’m teaching my introductory course, I can see the perspiration on their faces,” said Dr. Pajarillo. “Some are nodding, but some are confused—especially when we start dealing with technology like Moodle or our library databases. So I wondered: How do you level the playing field for these students who come to the graduate program at different points in their lives?”

That’s when Dr. Pajarillo, who at that time was a Viret Family Faculty Leadership Fellow, decided to create a first-of-its-kind resource for Adelphi University graduate students: the Equitable, Targeted and Structured (ETS) Onboarding Program. What started as a pilot program for Adelphi’s College of Nursing and Public Health in 2019 is now expanding to other Adelphi departments and being replicated at colleges and universities across the nation.

“The ETS Onboarding Program was helpful for my transition to becoming a graduate student,” said Leah Delman ‘17, who completed the ETS Onboarding Program in Spring 2023, her first semester in the graduate program. “It has been a little while since I was in school as an undergraduate and I definitely needed some guidance. The ETS Onboarding Program provided a framework for understanding how to use the technology such as CLASS and Moodle, and the ETS onboarding covered academic writing and literature search methods. I felt more prepared for graduate studies after I completed this onboarding.”

Graduate student Marina Ryan ‘17, who just completed her first full year in the graduate program, also appreciated how this structured onboarding helped her to compose research papers. Most notably, she remembers “watching the videos on writing a research paper and how to properly use the electronic databases. This is a skill that I practiced a few times—and it has made a tremendous impact.”

Four other institutions are now working with Dr. Pajarillo to customize and implement their own versions of the ETS Onboarding Program: Bradley University, Texas Wesleyan University, the University of Toledo and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Professors from each university joined forces to create a consortium and present the progress of their programs at conferences in Philadelphia, California, Florida and Montreal. The collaborative work within this consortium is experience enriching. Each school is learning from one anothers’ respective programs.

“The program worked wonders at Adelphi, but for replication, you need to consider the population that you’re applying this to, and you need to adapt it to the culture of that environment. This is evidence-based practice,” he added.

“This is a consortium of ETS Onboarding programs that Adelphi University is leading.”

Dr. Pajarillo also built a multidisciplinary team of Adelphi professors and staff to continue expanding the ETS Onboarding Program throughout the University. The team consists of Karen Kolb, director of the Faculty Center for Professional Excellence (FCPE); Mary Jahrsdoerfer, PhD, clinical assistant professor of nursing; Michael Matto, PhD, instructional designer and associate professor of English; and David Lau from the Office of Academic Services and Retention.

The program is currently being adapted for Adelphi University’s communication science and disorders, nursing, and health informatics graduate students. And a prototype for an undergraduate version of the program is in the works. ETS Onboarding may also help Adelphi programs earn and retain their accreditation. As Dr. Pajarillo noted, accreditors consider what steps schools are taking to orient and acclimate incoming students to enhance learning, program retention and success. That’s where the ETS Onboarding Program shines.

As for his graduate nursing students, Dr. Pajarillo is dedicated to their retention in the program, no matter their age, experience or background. “I am really passionate about innovation and creative ways of teaching,” he said. “That’s why I developed this particular ETS Onboarding Program … so that they are guaranteed success.”

Edmund Pajarillo, PhD, is Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certified, a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality, a Board Certified Nurse Informaticist, an Academy of Nursing Education Fellow and a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

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