Nursing Ambition

Nursing Ambition

Some schools discourage nurses from Division 1 athletics competition. At Fairfield, it’s all part of the learning experience.

Sophomore Kathryn Bergstrom ’24 sat across from coaches during her college recruitment days and listened as her aspirations to row on a varsity team and study to become a nurse slowly slipped away.

It was a similar experience for senior Tahlia Brown ’22 when she went through the recruiting process as a softball player.

Kelly Buckley ’21 had stopped looking altogether, because she could not find a school that would offer her the chance to play field hockey as well as work her way toward a nursing degree.

But as anyone with a dream will do, Bergstrom, Brown, and Buckley did not relent. Rather, they continued their search until they came upon Fairfield University’s Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, the one place where their aspirations were not only welcomed but also encouraged.

“I probably looked at five schools that had both rowing and nursing,” Bergstrom said. “Other schools told me that I had to pick either nursing or rowing. Clinicals start in the second year so I was told that I could be on the team for the first two years, but then I would have to quit the team or pick another major.”

Brown was so sure she would never realize her dream of playing softball and studying nursing, that she dropped the major from her profile.

“On my recruiting profile, I just put “education,” because a lot of schools in the West discouraged softball and nursing, since softball is year-round,” Brown said. “They were concerned because of clinicals… they didn’t say I couldn’t do it, but just really discouraged me, by telling me about a player who had tried it and had missed a lot of practices.”

Buckley’s nursing goals were not solidified until she made her decision to attend Fairfield University.

I wasn’t 100 percent sure about nursing before I found Fairfield, because I had never seen a program that was on board with athletics.” Buckley said. “There weren’t many opportunities for field hockey and nursing.”

Buckley, a two-time Northeast Conference defensive player of the year, graduated from the nursing program last spring and now works as a clinical nurse on a medical surgical floor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She hopes to use this experience to move into the emergency room.

“I think it’s the fast-paced energy of the emergency room that draws me there,” said Buckley. “It kind of relates to field hockey because it’s pure adrenalin that drives your next instinct. Emergency room work is completely run on teamwork and communicating with one another, like sports.”

Like all nursing students, Brown started the clinical experience in her sophomore year, gaining exposure to areas of nursing such as geriatrics, medical surgery, maternity, and pediatrics.

“I really want to work in a pediatrics ICU or neonatal ICU,” Brown said. “Down the road, I am thinking of being a nurse practitioner. I would become an RN first, work a few years, and then pursue a master’s to become an APRN for pediatrics.”

Bergstrom is in her sophomore year, so she will not experience her first clinical until the spring semester. She looks forward to finding her field of interest.

While clinicals provide the opportunity to apply academic subjects such as anatomy and chemistry while gaining practical experience, the time required can put added strain on an already full schedule for a student-athlete. On some clinical days, student-athletes need to miss practice and conditioning sessions in order to meet the hourly requirements of their academics.

“When playing a sport, you don’t always have enough hours in the day,” Brown said. “Even though I may not want to study or do homework at a particular time, I need to take advantage of the time I have, so that I don’t get behind in my work.” She noted that softball head coach Julie Brzezinski “always gives us time when we are traveling to do our schoolwork, so that’s helpful as well.”

But, along with the stress of trying to find “enough hours in a day” comes that sense of accomplishment and relief when everything comes together.

“In the fall of my junior year, I was taking 18 credits,” Buckley said. “There was one day when I had an exam in my 8 a.m. class, an exam in my 12:30 p.m. class, plus I had to make up a lab, followed by another exam that night. And, I went to practice that afternoon. At the end of the day, I thought ‘Wow, I just did that!’” When those time crunches materialize, all three student-athletes are grateful for the guidance they receive from their coaches as well as their professors.

“I appreciate all of the support from my coaches and professors because they all really want you to do well and want what’s best for you,” Bergstrom said. “If you are struggling in a class, the coaches are always there to help you. Having support from the staff was really important to me, in choosing a school.”

With proper support, and spurred by their own determination, Bergstrom, Brown, and Buckley have gained a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and pride — in the classroom, in competition, and in their chosen profession — all of which are important when fulfilling a dream.

Tags:  Egan School


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