A role model for Decker School of Nursing students

Look out world

The family-like environment at the Decker School of Nursing has played an integral role in Birant Akbay’s success at Binghamton University.

“Because it’s a smaller program, I not only know all of the students in my class, but all of the professors, too,” says Akbay, who graduated in May with a degree in nursing. “It’s beneficial to students because you get that one-to-one experience.”

As president of the school’s Nursing Student Association, Akbay worked to enhance the family-like atmosphere and get nursing students more active in the community. Akbay has led students in events such as the Heart Walk, Coaches vs. Cancer and Relay for Life.

“We try to get involved in other ways, as well,” he says. “We’ve gone to elementary schools to teach children about proper hand hygiene. We want to give back to the community. A big part of nursing is education. It’s not just hands-on skills.”

Akbay’s leadership skills did not go unnoticed at Decker.

“I can honestly say that he is one of the best presidents we have ever had,” says Fran Srnka Debnar, clinical assistant professor and student services director of undergraduate student advising at Decker. “He is a born leader. He is phenomenal at motivating his classmates and his e-board.”

Akbay also served as a campus tour guide since his junior year and, along the way, helped prospective nursing students learn about Decker and its facilities.

“If you are enthusiastic about your program, why not let other students know about it?” says Akbay, who was a member of the Student Health Advisory Committee. “You could inspire someone to go into nursing. If you enjoy being a student at Binghamton, (leading tours) is a good way to pass that on to others.”

Akbay’s work outside of the classroom and hospitals taught him about leadership, communication skills and — perhaps most importantly — time management.

“There is a lot of material crammed into this program,” he says. “If you can’t manage your time, you are in big trouble.”

Akbay, from Niskayuna, near Albany, became attracted to nursing while taking a “New Visions” healthcare course as a senior in high school. One of 10 students accepted into the program, Akbay spent the first half of the day taking classes, while the rest of the day was spent job shadowing at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany.

Those clinical rotations gave Akbay a taste of the healthcare industry — and the “people-oriented” nature of nursing proved appealing.

“I really liked the role of the nurse in the healthcare system,” he said. “They are the backbone of the system.”

Akbay chose Binghamton University because of its strong science and nursing programs. But before becoming active in Decker, Akbay made a trip that would foreshadow the importance of the family atmosphere.

“I’ve always been drawn to my Turkish side and Turkish culture,” says Akbay, whose father came to the United States from Turkey to pursue his doctorate. “Ever since I was young, we would go to Turkey and spend time with my grandparents. In Turkish culture, family is very important. So I really wanted to spend extra time with my grandparents while I was there.”

Akbay spent a semester during his sophomore year studying at the Turkish school his father attended: Bogazici University in Istanbul. But after the semester, Akbay felt he had not learned all he needed. So he decided to take a year off from Binghamton University and enroll in a Turkish language program, while also traveling through Europe.

After eight months at the Istanbul language school, Akbay was able to read, write and speak Turkish. He says he would love to live there someday.

“It’s a challenging experience to learn culture and language,” he says. “I’m so connected to the Turkish people and culture. I’m so happy there.”

Just before graduation, Akbay was still deciding what his next step would be. Options included critical care, teaching or management. “There are so many paths and options in nursing,” he says. “The paths are endless.”

Being part of Decker helped Akbay develop a stronger relationship with Binghamton University, he says.

“I felt like I belonged somewhere,” he said of his decision to pursue a nursing degree. “It all goes back to that relationship between faculty and students. They care about students and want them to be successful. They want to prepare students to be the best they can be because they know the nursing profession can be so overwhelming at times.

“Binghamton has given me a good opportunity and a good base to take the next step.”