Michelle Pietrocola, a senior in the Registered Nurse-Bachelor of Science Nursing (RN-BSN) program, pitches high standards in academics and on the field as the record-breaking student-athlete manages her Stockton career.
Pietrocola is a member of the Stockton Nursing Club, the Stockton Honors Program and the Stockton Softball Team.
As part of her nursing education, she spends 20 hours a week in clinical at regional hospitals. After clinical and classes, Pietrocola has softball practice or a game six days a week.
“Between clinical, softball practice, club meetings, and going to class, it would be an understatement to say that I have kept busy during my Stockton career,” Pietrocola said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Each of Pietrocola’s extracurricular memberships require dedication, volunteer work and time outside the classroom and off the field. She has volunteered for Relay for Life to raise money for breast cancer awareness, participated in a flu shot drive with fellow nursing students, and collected goods for victims of Hurricane Sandy. She also attends Stockton’s Day of Service in the Fall and Spring, works Stockton’s Women in Sports Day, and plays softball with teammates and with physically and mentally disabled local students at the South Jersey Field of Dreams.
In addition to volunteer service, Pietrocola meets the requirements of Stockton’s Honors Program, including keeping a minimum GPA of 3.3, taking five rigorous honors-level classes, and participating in an externship.
On the field, Pietrocola’s love for softball began at age 8. As a senior at Stockton, she is in her 15th and final year as a softball pitcher.
In Pietrocola’s Junior season, she broke four Stockton records and tied another. She broke the record for the number of innings pitched (149.1 innings), wins (18), strikeouts in a season (211), and shut-outs (9), and she tied the record for saves (2). To top off the season, the Stockton pitching staff, as a whole, was ranked second in the nation for earned run average (ERA).
As a senior, Pietrocola broke Stockton’s record for all-time strikeouts in the third game of the season, and ended her career with 546 total strikeouts. Her seventh win of the season landed her the title of Stockton College’s Most Winningest Pitcher with 47 total wins at the end of the regular season. Pietrocola broke the record for number of appearances (87), innings pitched (447.2) and complete games (46) for a four-year career.
In her four years as a Stockton athlete, she was a part of the team that broke the record for team wins in a season (33) and helped Stockton Head Softball Coach Val Julien on her way to her 500th win. Together, the team won the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) championship in 2013, where Pietrocola was named tournament MVP.
“It is hard to put into words what softball has meant to me over the course of my life,” she said. “There is no greater feeling than the solace of stepping onto the mound to throw the first pitch of the game… Or the moment of combined exhaustion and elation when you strike out the last batter to win the no-hitter… Or the heartbreak of losing the last game of your season. It is that sense of competition and teamwork that has kept me in the game.”
In the last game of the regular softball season, Pietrocola “finally” acquired her first at bat as a senior. “I hit a grand slam!” she exclaimed.
She was awarded New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Second Team for her Junior and Senior years.
Pietrocola credits Coach Julien for making the final third of Pietrocola’s softball career something she will remember forever.
“Coach is unlike any other coach when it comes to academics and softball. She has not only made the experience easier, but she has given me the room to succeed in both areas,” Pietrocola said. “On the field, Coach Julien has always pushed me to never settle. The success I have attained as an athlete these four years have put an exclamation point on a memorable 15-year career.”
Off the field, Pietrocola dedicates time to the future of her nursing career.
In the summer before her senior year, Pietrocola was chosen as one of 11 out of 200 applicants to participate in the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation externship. Kessler Institute, ranked second in the nation for rehabilitative health care, works with patients with strokes, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and orthopaedic issues. During this full-time, nine-week program, Pietrocola gained immense knowledge on patient care, medication administration, and nursing documentation.
Pietrocola feels her Stockton mentors have provided her with the opportunity to successfully combine both her nursing and softball careers.
“The support that I have received from Coach Julien and my nursing professors, especially Professor Carol-Rae Reed, Professor Rose Scaffidi, and Professor Joan Perks, has been immeasurable,” Pietrocola said. “With their flexibility, understanding, and encouragement, I learned that softball and nursing do not have to be in place of one another, but could share a symbiotic relationship.”
The teamwork, resilience, drive, performance under pressure, and dedication that she learned from softball continue to make her a better nurse, she feels. Equally, the patience, communication, pro-activity, and flexibility that Pietrocola learned in the hospital took her softball performance to the next level.
Pietrocola, originally from North Brunswick, NJ, is set to graduate this Spring, and will then take the NCLEX examination (the NJ state board) in order to become a registered nurse.
She has been accepted to Duke University’s Adult and Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program, which is ranked 10th in the nation. The esteemed Master’s program will train Pietrocola to work in an acute care setting, such as a hospital emergency room or critical care unit. Her ultimate goal is to receive her Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner degree from Duke University.
“If there is one thing that I will take away from my time at Stockton, it is to always live in the moment,” Pietrocola said. “When I was at practice, my mind couldn’t be thinking about the test I had to take in a few hours, just as when I was in the hospital I didn’t have time to worry about my game the next day. I focus on each and every moment, and how lucky I am. This is something that I put into practice every day.”