A nurse, by dictionary definition, is someone who “looks after, fosters and advises.”
“When I was in high school, I volunteered at a hospital, and the very first day, I watched a delivery,” Sarah Post, a fourth-year UCI nursing student, said. “The nurse told me that I’d either want to throw up, faint or cry. I ended up crying because it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I knew then my interest in this field had been affirmed.”
“I grew up in an area that had very high teen pregnancy rates,” Elizabeth Van Nest, another fourth-year nursing student, said. “A friend of mine was having a baby and she was not having a good experience with nurses and felt she wasn’t getting the help that she needed. It pushed me to become someone that was going to help people.”
Several students in the Nursing Science program at UC Irvine seek to be just that. By the time they graduate, these students will have put in at least 690 hours of clinical rotations at various medical facilities across Orange County to implement what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to real life experiences.
“I fell in love with oncology. The patients I was seeing were incredible,” Van Nest said. “People think that cancer nursing in pediatrics is depressing, but it’s anything but. It’s about staying positive and being happy while beating the disease.”
Post, who is in a prenatal and postpartum rotation at UC Irvine’s Medical Center, describes the experiences she’s had in this program as a great opportunity to grow as an individual.
“You’re forced headfirst into reality with no one there to catch you. You need to be able to know your role as a nurse because you have actual patients who need you.
“Things definitely do not go as planned. You need to be able to step back and reevaluate quickly. You’re no longer in a classroom; the situations in front of you are real, not theoretical.”
It’s easy to become disheartened with the program coursework in the beginning.
“Bio and chem classes the first two years were draining because I wasn’t able to focus on what I wanted to do,” Van Nest said.
“Staying determined was difficult, but once I was able to have hands-on experience with what I wanted to do, I was just reminded of how passionate I am about nursing,” Post said.
The personal relationships created between nurses and their patients are a huge factor when it comes down to making the distinction between nursing and medicine.
“Medicine is about diagnosis, and doctors are great at that, but they very rarely make the connections with their patients that nurses do.
“Yes, [doctors] make more money, but nurses still make money and are able to help in so many ways that go unnoticed,” Post said. “They completely change someone’s entire experience when they’re giving birth, and nurses are there to enhance it.”
While working 12-hour shifts weekly each quarter, these students also manage to become active participants in other groups on campus. “If we’re not busy, we’re bored,” Van Nest joked. “It’s a strange feeling to have empty time on your hands.”
Van Nest is president of the Nursing Science Student Association, and Post is an active member of a sorority and professional fraternity.
“You have to make time for yourself to have fun and enjoy, otherwise you’re going to go crazy studying all hours of the day,” Post advised.
Both these students suggest recommend having self-determination and drive while pursuing a field of study like nursing.
“Loads of students come into this school as bio majors, yet relatively few of them leave as them because they realize that pressure from other people isn’t a good reason to study it,” Van Nest said. “Passion comes from you, not from someone telling you what to do.
“Make sure that what you’re committed to is what you want to do and be passionate. Otherwise it’s not worth it.”