Written by: Joanne Loos
Note: This story was written in spring 2023 when Natalie was a senior student. At the time of the newsletter publication, she has graduated from the program.
When Natalie Elizabeth Welch began planning for college, she knew she wanted to go into the medical field. She joined the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON) from high school and excelled in the program. Natalie is also the Student Nurses’ Association at the University of Hawaii at Manoa president. Now in her senior year, Natalie reflects on her journey.
Q: What brought you to NAWSON?
I have two aunts who are retired nurses, and I know that they enjoyed the profession because they found it rewarding. I have always wanted to do something in the medical field and, after volunteering at The Queen’s Medical Center – West Oahu in the nursing department and learning more about the profession of nursing and all of the different specialties, I decided that it was something I wanted to pursue.
I attended one of the open house events held by the University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa nursing school to find out more about the Direct Entry into Nursing (DEN) program. This information session helped me determine that I wanted to apply. I appreciated how being accepted into the DEN program would give me a sense of relief, pride, and belonging on the very first day of college.
I am proud to have been accepted into [NAWSON’s] DEN program. I know that this program is highly competitive and NAWSON is considered as one of the best nursing schools on the island. The DEN program also introduced me to approximately 40 other first-year college students who had also been accepted into the same program. We all helped one another and are now friends.
Another reason I chose to attend NAWSON is because I was fortunate enough to have received the UH Manoa Provost Achievement Scholarship (formerly the Chancellor’s Scholarship). Knowing that I could complete a four-year program, graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree, and then become a Registered Nurse at a greatly reduced expense was very important to me.
Q: What have you most enjoyed during your time here?
I appreciate how all of the instructors really care about their students… Each of my instructors and professors has motivated me to achieve at the highest possible level, to not stop working until I have done my absolute best, and to work to satisfy myself so I can prove to myself that I am capable of performing at a higher level than I have before.
Q: How has your experience influenced your career pursuits?
I have been an Executive Board of Directors member in the Student Nurses’ Association (SNA) since my first year of college. Through SNA involvement, I have learned how to better manage my time so I can complete coursework and extracurricular activities. It has also increased my confidence, leadership, and communication skills. This gave me the confidence I needed to apply for multiple nursing assistant positions at The Queen’s Medical Center during the summer after my Sophomore year until I finally got an interview and eventually was hired. My experiences as a nursing assistant confirmed my desire to work in an acute care setting. My attendance at SNA social events, such as Let’s Get eERie and Job Jam, has exposed me to a variety of nursing fields. Clinicals have also introduced me to different fields of nursing as well. These experiences have helped me to determine that I want to become an Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse. I believe that the experiences I have had as a result of attending NAWSON have prepared me to be a better new graduate nurse, and will allow me to achieve my professional goals.
“I have learned what it is like to be a nurse, as well as how influential nurses are to their patients. I am excited to continue my nursing journey.”
Q: How did you feel about your journey in nursing when you first began? How do you feel now?
When I first began my nursing journey, I felt prepared because I was in the DEN program. I knew that I would always have over 40 friends, I had a team of counselors who were willing to help me navigate the sometimes confusing pathway toward graduation, and I had instructors/professors who wanted to help me succeed. Although I may not have always felt one hundred percent confident that I knew all of the details of how I would achieve my goal of becoming a Registered Nurse, I knew that I had many resources and a support group around me.
Now that I am in my senior year of college and nursing school, I feel prepared to step into the nursing profession after graduation. When I reflect on my nursing school journey, I realize how far I have come. I remember how overwhelmed I felt during the first week of my nursing school courses; almost every sentence in my nursing fundamentals textbook had a piece of information or word that was unfamiliar to me. I would have to stop reading so I could look up or remember, for example, what the words systolic, diastolic, apical, and sublingual meant. Throughout nursing school, I have put in the work required of a nursing student in order to complete my courses successfully. I have learned what it is like to be a nurse, as well as how influential nurses are to their patients. I am excited to continue my nursing journey.
Q: Congratulations on your Mayo Clinic internship. Can you please tell us more about this?
I had the opportunity to be a student nurse intern at the Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I was an intern in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I cared for a wide range of patients including cardiovascular, medical, neurological, and surgical. Even as an intern, I was able to participate in the care of patients as their nurse. My preceptor was a highly experienced ICU nurse who wanted me to progress throughout the summer to the point where I knew what needed to be done for our patients and could successfully perform all aspects of their care (medication administration, assessments, charting, rounds with the health care team, communication with physicians, shift notes, and shift report) independently. I was able to achieve this well before the end of the internship.
Being in the ICU allowed me to learn about the medications, equipment, and procedures that are commonly used and performed in an ICU… It also allowed me to experience a lot of firsts; most significantly, I witnessed my first code blue and participated in my first organ donation case.
This internship allowed me to have the hands-on experience that every nursing student wants and needs. The Mayo Clinic internship, my preceptor, and the ICU provided me with consistent opportunities to improve my ability to perform the skills I have learned in nursing school… [NAWSON] provided me with the skills and knowledge that resulted in my selection as a student nurse intern at the Mayo Clinic… Through my experiences at [NAWSON], I learned to speak confidently, competently, and decisively. These skills allowed me to interview well and be selected to receive one of fourteen spots in Mayo Clinic La Crosse’s student nurse internship.
“My life outside of nursing contributes to my motivation in the profession because my hobbies require skill, attention to detail, patience, and constant improvement. Nursing requires this as well.”
Q: Could you please tell me more about your life outside of NAWSON?
Outside of nursing school, I am the president of the Student Nurses’ Association (SNA) at UH Manoa and I work as a nursing assistant at The Queen’s Medical Center Punchbowl. My hobbies are cooking, baking, and fishing. I enjoy baking baguettes, hamburger buns, focaccia bread, and pizza. Over the summer, I had many opportunities to participate in these hobbies. I achieve a work-life balance by focusing on what I need to do. I have a physical paper planner that I use to remind myself of deadlines and my work schedule. I try to complete something school-related every day of the week because I think this helps me accomplish my assignments and studying effectively.
My life outside of nursing contributes to my motivation in the profession because my hobbies require skill, attention to detail, patience, and constant improvement. Nursing requires this as well. My hobbies help me to practice the necessary qualities required of a professional nurse and help me succeed.
Q: Any advice for other students who want to achieve a work-life balance?
My advice is to live in the present and take one day at a time. Always know what your goals are and have a plan to achieve them.
Q: Any advice for students or prospective students?
Nursing school requires a sacrifice. It has to be your top priority. Although there may be other things that you might want to do, those things will be more difficult to do once you are a nursing student. Although this may sound discouraging, I have found that it is worth it. There are not many four-year degree programs that provide you with the skills and knowledge that will allow you to enter a job field that is in high demand and allows you to specialize in different areas of nursing.