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Rachel Wagner
Rachel Wagner expects to graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing Education this fall. She shares why she chose to become a nurse and discusses her Eastern Experience.

Why did you choose nursing?

People ask me all the time, "Why did you choose nursing?" Every time I am faced with this question, I think of all that I've been through that has lead me to this point in my life as a registered nurse. If anyone knows anything about me, they know my "nursing inspiration story." But, if you don't know me, here's a little review of my story: When I was asked in kindergarten what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered quickly, "A veterinarian!" My dream to be a veterinarian didn't change until I was 12 years old, when my grandpa, at age 56, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer metastasized to his brain.

During the 15 months that we had him, we were in and out of hospitals more than I could count on my fingers and toes. I learned that some days were bad, really bad, but other days were good and I found that it seemed to be related back to the type of care that my grandpa received. Whenever we had a "good" nurse, the day seemed to go by so much smoother and without as many worries, on the days when we had a "not so good" nurse, the day seemed to be filled with worry and hurt.

About a week before my grandpa passed away, I was sitting in my grandpa's room whenever his "good" nurse came in to help him to the bathroom. I watched my family in the room whenever she walked in and I seen all of their faces light up a little. In 2008, my cousin passed away on Feb. 1 and my papa passed away May 1, and my great-grandma passed away and we buried her Dec. 1. Needless to say, it was a hard year and in 2009, all my family and I did was exist. 

The night that my grandpa passed away, our "good nurse" held our hands and cried with us as we were gathered around his bed. She was there to hold us when he took his last breath, she made the difference, she comforted us and that's when it hit me: I wanted to be just like her, I wanted to be a "good" nurse. I wanted to be the nurse that walks in the room and brightens up your day even in the face of terminal illnesses.

After my grandpa passed away is when my planning began. I wanted something positive to come out of all of the loss, I guess, even though at the time I couldn't imagine anything positive. I started taking concurrent courses from my ninth grade year to graduation year at the community college in town. In 2011, I graduated from Lighthouse Academy private school and earned my GED on May 12, 2011. In the fall of 2011, I began my journey to obtaining all of my prerequisites for the nursing program.

We moved to Hobbs, New Mexico, and I went through a CNA program at New Mexico Junior College as a prerequisite to the nursing program in the fall of 2012. Then the following summer, I applied and was accepted into the New Mexico Junior College Nursing Program for the fall 2013 semester and continued my journey through nursing school. I made the vice president's honor roll and president's honor roll list. I was also inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. I was within the top eight of my college as far as GPAs went and was told by the nursing office that I was within the top 5 of the nursing students in my graduating class.

I worked so hard to get there, and I think that the memories of my cousin, grandpa and great grandma are what carried me through. Whenever I was in the CNA program, during clinical practice, I looked at every patient as if they were my grandpa, grandma or cousin. I thought, "How would I treat this patient if he were my grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle, cousin, brother or sister?"

That is what has kept me going, and that's why I want to be a nurse. That's why I chose nursing. I want to help others in every possible way that I can. I want to be the best nurse I can be and treat every patient equal with the BEST care I can give.

My family's motto is, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time." That's became my personal motto for everything and it will continue all through my life and career. After I received my associate's degree in the nursing program, I took the state NCLEX-RN. The afternoon after I took the exam, I learned that my clinical partner from nursing school had been killed instantly in a head-on collision. I felt such an overwhelming flood of guilt cover me. I had just seen her, I had just texted her, I had just graduated nursing school with her. How could this be possible? Well, nursing has taught me that life is ever so fragile and that it's not biased, it can happen to anyone at any time. I cried all the way home from the exam, I stayed in bed for two days and didn't even care if I had passed the NCLEX-RN.

I was just overwhelmed with questions. Why her? Why did she have to die? Why wasn't it me? Why wasn't it the driver of the other car? What could I have done to stop it? The questions continued to flood my mind and when I got the results that I had passed my exam on the first try, I cried both tears of happiness, sadness, grief and guilt. She never got to take the exam she had studied four years for, she never got to be the nurse she was so trained to be. I felt so guilty that I got to take the exam, I got to do all the things she never got to do.

rachel wagner enmuI carry the memory of her, my papa, cousin and great-grandma every single day. I like to think that they're looking down on me, and I hope that I make them proud and that they know they're loved, never forgotten and forever missed. I decided to continue my education by getting my bachelors degree, so the following fall after I graduated from NMJC with my Associate of Applied Science in Nursing, I applied to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program online at Eastern New Mexico University and was accepted!

I began the program and asked the director if I could take double the load so I could graduate in one year instead of two. I just wanted to finish so bad and further my education to help me be a better nurse. I also went back to New Mexico Junior College and took classes to obtain my Associate of Science in Business and Associate of Art in English/Creative Writing. I triple majored and graduated in December 2016 with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Magna Cum Laude from Eastern New Mexico University, Associate of Arts in English/Creative Writing and Associate of Science in Business from New Mexico Junior College.

This past January, I began the Master of Science in Nursing program at Eastern New Mexico University. I took double the load through the spring, summer and fall semesters to graduate this December. I also got published as a self-published author of my very first poetry, short-story and playwright collection called "Yesterday's Coffee," through Amazon on June 10, 2017; all while working full-time as charge nurse at Lea Regional Medical Center.

I'm so excited to have opportunities that I have to go to school and chase my dreams and remember those who have inspired me and made me want to be a nurse. I cannot tell you how many times one of my patients has told me that I was "kind," "a nice lady" or said, "thank you" for helping them. I cannot tell you how many patients have asked, "Will you be back for shift tomorrow?" And sometimes they're saddened when I say, it's my last of my three-day shift round.

However, most of all, it's not about me. It's about my patients. And what I can tell you is that on most days, my patients give me more than I ever give them. So, you may ask, "Why?" I'll answer, every time, "Because I love nursing." I love taking care of people. I want to make a difference in people's lives. I want to do my job and do my best every single day to bring light to other's lives. 

I am a firm believer in giving people roses while they are still here to smell them. I want to be kind, show compassion, give others hope and save people's lives. I don't ever want anyone to feel worse when I walk into a room on shift change, I want to brighten their day and lighten their spirits. I've always been told that I'm a patient person. Now, I understand what everyone means when they say it. Yes, I am. Nurses are patient people. I am a nurse and proud of it. 

What academic honors have you had at ENMU?

I graduated last December from ENMU with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing Magna Cum Laude, I've been named to the Dean's List every semester and earned the ENMU Nursing Scholarship and the Bill & Gail Kinyon Scholarship.

What activities have you been involved with outside of the classroom (volunteering, organizations, jobs, etc.)?

I work full-time as charge nurse on the Transitional Care Unit at Lea Regional Medical Center.
I've volunteered for Manna Outreach, Isaiah's Soup Kitchen, Bethel food drive and did volunteer work for Phi Theta Kappa and mu Alpha Theta here in town at New Mexico Junior College.

Where were you born and raised? Any siblings? Parents' careers?

I was born and raised in Roswell, New Mexico. I moved to Andrews, Texas, my senior year of high school and attended Odessa College. Then in the summer of 2012, my family and I moved to Hobbs and I began attending New Mexico Junior College. I began attending ENMU online in the fall of 2015.

What do you hope to pursue as a career?

I hope to pursue my career as a nurse educator after receiving my master's degree. I hope to still work PRN at Eastern New Mexico University and become the best nurse I can be. I also hope to continue my education and achieve a Bachelor or Master of Science in English/Creative Writing and continue writing in my spare time.

What do you hope to ultimately achieve in your career?

I hope I continue to pass my knowledge off to generations of nurses and instill a love for learning and knowledge in my future students. I want them to see how much of a difference nurses make and how important good nurses are. I also hope to share my words with the world through my future books I plan to write.

Which professors have helped mentor you in your time at ENMU?

All of my professors have helped me in numerous ways through my educational journey through ENMU and I am grateful to each and every one of you. The professors who have mentored me the most and I know I'll carry their lessons with me throughout my career include:

Kathleen Cooper, Professor of Nursing
Vivian Coates, Professor of Nursing
Valerie Kyle, Professor of Nursing
Carol Erwin, Professor of English
Kathleen Wagner, Professor of Education

These professor's guidance and support will forever be carried throughout my career and I am forever grateful and indebted to them for all of their help and support.

Which extracurricular activities are you involved in?

I play the piano every day, and I play whenever I get a chance for my church.

I enjoy volunteering, so whenever I can help, I volunteer at NMJC, Manna Outreach, Isaiah's Kitchen and Bethel Church here in town.

My love for writing and reading has led me to having my own book reviewing blog, so I also engage in that, daily.

What is your favorite place on the ENMU campus? Why?

Buchanan Hall because it is beautiful and regal. Also, because this is where I was pinned as a BSN prepared nurse. I have beautiful memories here.

What has been your favorite class at ENMU? Why?

I have loved every single one of the classes I've taken at ENMU but if I had to choose my top favorites, they would be:

"Global Health Care" (NURS 318) because it gave me a deeper view of the need for nurses around the world.

"Cultural Competencies for Nurses" (NURS 417) because it opened my eyes that despite our cultural differences, we're all the same.

"Introduction to Literature" (ENG 211) because Carol Erwin is so passionate and a master of her craft. I learned so much about literature in this course and I will carry it with me forever.

"Educational Psychology" (EDF 503) because it brought everything together that I've learned from the beginning of my studies to apply to the career I want to have.

"Instructional Design" (EDF 538) because Kathleen Wagner has a deep passion for education and teaching and that has ignited a passion deep in my heart.

Why did you choose to attend ENMU?

ENMU hosted an outreach to transferring students on Discovery Day at NMJC and that's when I learned about the BSN program. After the amazing experience I had with the BSN program, I decided to continue on in pursuing the MSN program.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in your field of study?

If you love taking care of people, you want to make a difference in people's lives and you're thinking of going into nursing as a profession, I'll tell you two things.

Yes, it is hard. Nursing school is the hardest thing I ever went through and up until this point has been the most stressful and trying time of my life. Sometimes patients can make you feel incompetent and unhelpful, like you didn't learn anything in nursing school. Sometimes your patients don't make it and you have to keep going through your whole shift because you have six other patients to take care of.  Sometimes you have to wait until you're home to cry about that baby you lost on your shift. Sometimes, you feel like you can't work another shift ever again.

However, it's worth it. When you walk into a room and a patient smiles because they're so glad to see you're the one back on shift, it's worth it. When you see that baby carried out of the hospital in the arms of their mommy, laughing and giggling who wasn't breathing two shifts ago, it's worth it. When a patient responds to treatment and you know that you did the right thing by requesting that extra lab and CT scan, it's worth it. When you see that elderly patient transferred to assisted living whenever they weren't able to walk when they were admitted, it's worth it. The 12-hour shifts, the long, hard days, the sleepless nights, the missed lunches, the tired feet, it's worth it if you save just one more life, it's worth it if I can just touch one more person. Nursing is hard, but it's worth it. That is why I am a nurse.

Favorite part about being a Greyhound:

My favorite part about being a Greyhound is the fact that I am part of something bigger than myself. I am part of a school that has produced some of the greatest minds and creative people that New Mexico has to offer the world. That gives me such pride; pride that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.

Hobbies:

Writing, I write every day.
Reading, I read anywhere from 75-150 books a year (not including textbooks).
Playing the piano, I've played since I was 6.
Playing the guitar, I taught myself how to play when I was 14.
Writing music, I've written over 40 songs.
Singing, I sing every day and hope to have an album recorded, someday.
Cooking and baking, I have a deep LOVE for baking.

Additional Information:

As I was participating in my preceptorship hours this semester for my "Clinical Capstone" course through ENMU, I have been working under a nursing professor at New Mexico Junior College. Two weeks ago, I was offered a full-time position as a nursing professor to work in the NMJC Nursing Program and I accepted. Yesterday, I was given the keys to my office and given an official title of professor of pharmacology. I cannot believe that my dreams are coming true, but I have to thank ENMU for that; without ENMU, my dream of becoming a nursing educator would be out of reach.

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