Jamaal Lynwood ’20, ’22, a student in Georgian Court University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, was finishing his externship shift at Jersey Shore University Medical Center when the Staff Assist Alert sounded. The emergency “code” call indicates a patient is in cardiopulmonary arrest; within seconds, a multidisciplinary team comes together to try to save a life.
“I was at the nurses’ station with my preceptor, Bryan Gough, completing paperwork when the alert sounded,” says Jamaal. “We realized the patient’s room was right across the hall. Bryan grabbed the code crash cart and took it into the room. I was right behind him.”
The patient, a middle-aged man, was on the floor when they arrived. Once he was moved to the bed, Jamaal’s preceptor started chest compressions. “After about 10 compressions, Bryan looked at me and said, “Better get ready to take over.” Knowing his preceptor’s skills were better used starting an IV line and other advanced care, Jamaal thought, “I know I am able to do CPR. I am absolutely ready—it’s go time.”
After about three rounds of chest compressions, Jamaal’s role was done. The team’s collective efforts saved the patient. Afterward, one of the hospital’s nurse managers had nothing but praise for Jamaal’s efforts. “Your nursing student Jamaal did an amazing job starting CPR on a patient that coded. What an awesome job. The patient is alive and has a pulse. We can’t thank him enough,” she wrote in an e-mail to a GCU nursing professor.
Jamaal downplays the notion that he did anything remarkable. “The only person I told was my wife,” he said. “I was there for the patient and did what I’ve been trained to do. It’s understood when you enter the profession that this is what you signed up for.”
Caring for the Whole Patient
The 44-year-old’s path to nursing was partly planned, partly serendipity. “My first attempt at college didn’t fare well, and because I’m not the kind of person to sit around, I joined the U.S. Army,” said Jamaal. His military aptitude test scores revealed he had ability in the medical field. For eight years, he was a Medic 1 based at Fort Bragg, N.C., with two tours abroad—14 months in Iraq and 10 in Bosnia.
“I saw the injured in battle, got them stabilized, and watched them be discharged, never knowing what happened next to them,” said Jamaal. “While I found my training very fulfilling, I knew I wanted to have a broader role in the continuum of patient care as a nurse practitioner.”
In 2015, Jamaal started work as a surgical technician at Monmouth Medical Center, and it was there he heard a coworker talking about her alma mater, Georgian Court. With his first child on the way, he decided it was time to go back to college. His grades coming into Georgian Court didn’t qualify for the nursing program, so he became an exercise science major/biology minor instead. As Jamaal approached graduation in 2020, he checked his grades on Blackboard and saw a post that would change his life: “‘Only 5 days left to enroll in Georgian Court’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science Program.’ In two years at GCU, it was the first time I’d heard about the program, and knew it was what I wanted.”
Jamaal made the application deadline and became part of the program’s first class of 18 students, half men and half women. Accelerated is the key word—through 14 months, students are prepared for licensure as registered nurses and begin their careers.
“It’s been a whirlwind because I was still working full time,” said Jamaal. “The program is hands on and very fast paced—everything I was looking for.”
After graduating in February, Jamaal passed the NCLEX exam and became a circulating nurse in the Monmouth Medical Center operating room. This fits with his long-term goal of becoming a nurse practitioner in the surgical field. “I like interacting with patients and want to know what happens to them,” he says. Once more, his past experiences are shaping his future. “I interned for an orthopedic practice as an exercise science major and enjoyed meeting patients before surgery, being with them during the procedure and seeing them again in post-op visits,” he said. No matter which surgical area he finds himself in, “It’s about the patient experience from beginning to end. That’s exactly what I want to do.”
Story contributed by freelance writer Sheila Noonan. Photos by Joshua Tinto ’20, ’22.