A nursing degree that provides endless opportunities
By: Nicole Rotter
BSN Class of 2017,
I will be the first to admit that I never saw myself becoming a nurse. When I graduated high school, I knew two things about myself, that I loved science and I absolutely loved working with kids, but I had no clue what I wanted to do with that. Just like any science geek, I threw around the idea of going to med school, but I really didn’t want the time commitment for that! I started at St. Norbert College in the fall of 2014 planning on going for a basic biology degree. In the middle of my first semester there, I began thinking, what could I possibly do with that biology degree that I would actually enjoy? Two days before signing up for classes second semester at SNC, I made the switch to the pre-nursing program. This was just a few days after touring the Bellin College campus, and I honestly thought, “Hey, I could probably make a pretty good nurse”, and just went with it.
I finished up my prerequisites at SNC in just 3 semesters (thanks to the credits that I completed during high school), and started in the 15-month nursing program in January, 2016. I really enjoyed the direct entry from SNC with the partnership between the two colleges, so I knew that I was prepared for the transition. I never really looked around for nursing schools for a few reasons. First, I loved the location of Bellin College (only about 45 minutes from my hometown). I also couldn’t pass up being in a small cohort that had just 32 students in it. And lastly, I really wanted the 15-month program – I am a fast learner, I enjoy school, and I also liked the idea of graduating by the age of 21 with a degree that will be able to take me anywhere I could imagine.
The first day that I met my cohort, I was completely intimidated. I was the baby of the group – it seemed like everyone else had a degree of some sort already and had their life together, and here I was, barely 20 years old, starting probably the hardest 15 months of my life with a bunch of strangers. Little did I know that these girls (and 1 guy!) would become some of the greatest friends I could ask for. Nursing school really brings people together, you laugh together, you cry together, and stress out together over everything (that’s just the kind of people we are – ha!). Eventually, I realized that it didn’t matter that I didn’t have any other degree and never had any CNA experience – we all had a lot to learn (and even struggle through), but we all came together and helped each other out to make this program great.
Knowing that the program I was entering was only 15-months, I thought that I wouldn’t have time to do any “extra” things because I would need to focus all of my time on school work, but I was completely wrong. I will admit, at first it seems like you have absolutely no time to do anything besides homework, because there is an adjustment period, but after I knew what was expected of me, I was able to find spare time to get involved in different things that Bellin College had to offer.
One of my classmates wanted to create a Love Your Melon campus crew here since we didn’t have one yet. For those of you who don’t know what LYM is, it is an apparel brand dedicated to giving a hat to every child battling cancer in America as well as supporting nonprofit organizations that lead the fight against pediatric cancer. It is a nationwide organization made up of college students that have donated over 2.5 million dollars and over 91,000 hats so far. We sell products (beanies, apparel, and accessories) online at www.loveyourmelon.com and get credits when people select our crew (Bellin College Campus Crew) in the cart when they check out. The more credits we get, the more donation events we can do for local pediatric cancer patients. I knew right away that I wanted to be part of this organization, so I applied and was lucky enough to be one of 20 students in our college that was able to be on the crew! I ended up becoming the PR manager for our crew, and I think being part of this organization is the reason I decided that I want to be a pediatric oncology nurse. Within a few short months of starting our crew, we had enough credits to do our first donation event for a child that beat cancer recently. We threw her a big party here at the college, we gave her a special LYM beanie, did crafts, decorated cookies, and had a dance party (all while being dressed up as superheroes)! We even had a few local news stations come to our party to tell her story and show people what Love Your Melon is all about! It has been such a wonderful experience being a small part of such a big organization that works every single day to help make the lives of pediatric cancer patients just a little bit better.
Another opportunity that I have to thank Bellin College for is giving me a chance to go to Haiti for a week on a medical mission trip with Friends of Haiti (FoH) out of Green Bay. This was another thing that I just went for. I had never been on a plane before, never been out of the country, yet here I was, planning on going to Haiti for a week with seven of my classmates, two instructors, and a bunch of strangers from FoH where I wouldn’t have running water, electricity, or even a bed to sleep on. Looking back, I am so glad that I didn’t chicken out and I followed through with it, even though it was completely out of my comfort zone. Haiti was the best experience of my life, and I can’t wait to go back again one day. I could go on and on about Haiti and my experiences there – not only was I able to adapt to my surroundings, but we always had to be prepared to work with what we had, to provide care to patients that were relying on us. I was able to learn from the doctors that we were working with – they showed me how they determined the most important assessment findings which were then used to diagnose and treat each patient. I learned how to work with a language barrier as well, because our translators were not always available for every little thing. I had to learn as we went, there really wasn’t a way to prepare for what we were going to see or what we would be doing while we were there. Some of us did skills on these patients that we had only practiced in lab, but we had the guidance of many awesome nurses and doctors that made sure we felt comfortable with everything we did.
Bellin College has given me many opportunities to learn and grow not only as a person, but as a future nurse as well. I am nearing graduation and only have 2 sessions left of my program. Even though I will continue to learn every day from here on out in my nursing career, I believe that I have been properly prepared for wherever I end up after graduation. I hope to become a pediatric nurse in the near future, get a few years of nursing experience, and then go back to school to get my masters. I think I would really enjoy being a nurse educator eventually, so who knows what will be in store for me down the road! That’s one of the best things about getting a nursing degree – the possibilities are endless and there are always opportunities for change. I am very happy with the decisions I have made so far, and I can’t wait to see where I end up!