In 2023, WCU-Texas alumna Kaley W. emerged not just with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, but with a testament to resilience, personal growth, and the profound influence of WCU on her nursing journey. In this Alumni Spotlight, we delve into the transformative impact of WCU, the essential role simulations played in getting her ready for real-world patient care, and the mentors who continue to guide her to this day as an acute orthopedics nurse.
Join us as we discuss the tapestry of experiences, the peaks of challenges, and the triumphs that shaped Kaley’s nursing journey:
WCU: Why did you choose to pursue your BSN?
Kaley: Growing up, I had an innate ability to care for others who were sick or hurting while also demonstrating empathy for others’ situations. This led to my interest in a class in high school called health occupations. I was the only student from my high school to receive admission into this class and was able to gain valuable experience in the field of nursing. I was able to do clinicals at an assisted living facility and shadow professional nurses. After high school, nursing was the natural option to pursue as an educational goal. I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to make a difference in others’ lives and provide me with a sense of purpose and meaning. Nursing was the career that did both and was a natural fit for me as a person.
WCU: How has WCU helped you get to where you are today in your career?
Kaley: WCU shaped me into the nurse I am today. Through classes with professors who have excelled in the field of nursing, to dedicated staff who shared time with me in order to help me grow in knowledge and peers who supported me throughout my schooling, I was able to grow into the nurse I always wanted to be.
WCU: What path did you take to attain your career as a nurse, can you tell us more about your journey?
Kaley: My journey to become a nurse was not without its many challenges. I started off at a different college once I got out of high school where I began as a nursing major. This college, 18 hours from my home, provided me with a hard transition and I dealt with many mental health issues that stemmed from being on my own for the first time. I ended up staying only a semester at this college before making the tough decision to leave and attend community college closer to home. I started taking community college classes that would help me prepare to apply to the ADN program once I was ready. It was during these general education classes that I found and applied to WCU and was accepted. I made the decision to attend and go for my BSN after all.
The beginning of my schooling was fraught with difficulties as I struggled in pharmacology and ultimately had to retake the class. I also struggled in fundamentals and considered leaving my dream of being a nurse, but I persevered and kept going in order to achieve my dream. I finished school in June of 2023, took the greenlight exam in July and passed my NCLEX a week later. Now, my dream of being a nurse has been fulfilled and I am proud of myself for making it through nursing school despite many curveballs that were thrown my way.
WCU: What has been the most incredible part about your job so far?
Kaley: The most incredible part of my job so far has been getting to make a difference in the lives of patients in my care. It may be small, and it may not always be super noticeable, but every shift I get the opportunity to make a difference in their lives. Thats a great responsibility but also a great privilege that I am thankful for as a nurse.
WCU: How does your job connect back to your coursework at WCU?
Kaley: My job has allowed me to experience and care for patients with diagnoses I had learned through my classes at WCU. I have been able to connect what I learned with real patient cases. WCU helped me with critical thinking that I now use every day at work to determine my plan of care for each patient. WCU taught me the “what” and “why” of patient care interventions and now I am learning the “how” as a new nurse. I am learning how to put those interventions into further practice.
WCU prepared me for patient situations through simulation classes. Simulation classes prepared me to talk to doctors and other members of the interprofessional team in a professional manner and advocate for my patients, which is something I now do every day as a nurse.
WCU: Were there any classes or professors that influenced where you are today?
Kaley: Peter Hoang and Emily Liu are both professors I think of when I think of the greatest influences on my nursing career. Peter Hoang was my simulation instructor for my very first and my very last simulation along with many of my other terms. He created a learning environment where a mistake was considered a learning experience and growth took place. Throughout my schooling, he gave me many pep talks and encouraged me to keep going when challenges arose. His knowledge is vast, and he is someone who taught me what it would look like to be a good nurse. Now that I am a graduate of the university, we still keep in touch, and he continually encourages me through many difficult days as a new nurse. I am forever thankful for his mentorship and being an example in my nursing career. The other professor that has played a huge role in my nursing preparation is Emily Liu. Professor Liu was my professor during my last term at WCU but she made a big difference in my life. Professor Liu encouraged, motivated, and helped me when I was going through a challenging term. She met with me many times during that term despite her often very busy schedule. She taught me to be more confident in myself and to keep going despite the challenges. Professor Liu did not let me give up on the GreenLight exam even after two unsuccessful attempts. Her persistence and encouragement led me to try it one more time which led me to ultimately earn my GreenLight. Professor Liu was a mentor to me and helped me achieve my goals. She is a nurse I look up to and an educator I hope to be like one day.
WCU: What advice do you have for students who want to follow your path?
Kaley: My advice is to keep going always towards your dreams. There were many challenges that could’ve stopped me in my tracks and led me to not become a nurse, but I had to persevere and keep on going despite them. If you truly want to become a good nurse, nothing can stop you. I would also say to find a group of peers who will be by your side through it all. My group of friends made nursing school possible because we kept each other going and helped each other stay on top of all our assignments. Know that it is okay to make mistakes. As Professor Hoang would say, mistakes are just learning experiences. These learning experiences will help you grow, and they are expected.
WCU: How has life been after graduation, and where do you see yourself in the future?
Kaley: Life has been busy but wonderful post graduation. I now live in Tyler and work three 12-hour shifts each week. I hope to work a few years as a bedside nurse and then go back to school to pursue my MSN. I hope to come back to WCU after that to teach nursing.
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WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.