Answering the Call: Nursing Student Follows in the Footsteps of Family Members

Ann Purcell

Nursing is in Ann Purcell’s blood. Coming from a multi-generational nursing family, she had an inkling early on that she would end up in the field.

Growing up hearing stories from her mother and grandmother, the immense responsibility nurses carry intimidated Ann at first, so she initially put off her calling.

“When you're a nurse, you have somebody's life in your hands, so that scared me a lot,” she explains. “Nursing was something that had always been in the back of my mind. But there was that fear of whether I could do that.”

Ann tested the waters in other professions including as a dental assistant and nanny. She also completed a Health Information Technician Associate's Degree from Rasmussen, thinking that she might enjoy the data management aspect of healthcare.

But the calling grew stronger and led her to work as a nursing assistant in nursing homes, home care, and a special care nursery.

“I love to take care of people and help them feel better—and be that person who can get through to somebody who doesn't respond to others. It’s really rewarding to help understand somebody and get them what they need,” says Ann.

As Ann watched the nursing shortage intensify during the pandemic, and with a growing family to support, she decided it was finally time to pursue becoming a registered nurse.

The Inspiration to Keep Going

Rasmussen University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program was an easy choice for Ann. With her previous associate degree from the University, she was able to transfer in some of her credits.

Completion time was also a deciding factor.

“I’ve got little kids at home and want to get done as quickly as I can with school and have a more regular job schedule so I can have more time with them,” explains Ann, who currently works as a front desk student ambassador for Rasmussen, as well as a resident assistant for an assisted living facility.

Ann is the first to admit that juggling an accelerated nursing program with part-time work and two small children is challenging.

“It’s very intense. Nursing school isn’t easy in the first place. But it’s definitely worth it to just grin and bear it and focus on getting through," she says.

There have been a few key faculty who have kept Ann going, starting with her first in-person lab class.

“Ashley Gardner was my physical assessment instructor and she made me feel like I believed in myself. That was really pivotal for me, because I could have easily gone down the road of self-doubt,” says Ann.

Brittani Bromley, a nursing instructor at Rasmussen’s Bloomington campus has also positively impacted Ann’s learning experience.

“Brittani is a certified nurse midwife who was my instructor for the maternal-newborn simulation. She was excellent in helping me understand emergencies that can arise in pregnancy, labor, and delivery and what to do for those patients.”

And of course, coming from a long line of non-traditional nursing students, Ann, who will be 30 this year, has a few inspiring role models who blazed the trail first.

1980 Newspaper article about Claire Niemi, grandmother of Ann Purcell
Ann Purcell’s grandmother Clara was featured in the 1980 news story “A remarkable woman finishing nurse’s training at 55.” Photo reprinted with permission from the Mesabi Tribune. View the full-size large news clipping

Her grandmother Clara had 14 children and 25 grandchildren before finally pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. She graduated at age 55—the day before Ann’s mother graduated high school.

“She is a legend. Her story fills me with a strong sense of pride,” says Ann.

Next came her mother, who juggled nursing school with two kids and a husband who was an over the road truck driver.

“I honestly don't know how she did it and it makes me admire her that much more,” says Ann.

Her mother graduated from nursing school at age 45. Then her aunt decided to join the profession.

“Against all odds, my aunt went to nursing school after having breast cancer and graduated when she was 42,” she adds. “I have a lot of inspiration for doing this.”

Advice to Prospective Students

Once you’ve made the decision to pursue nursing school, Ann underscores the importance of having a support system in place.

“Make sure your family knows and be realistic about the time commitment and expectations. You can’t halfway do nursing school. You have to be all in or you’re not going to succeed,” she explains.

But when that success comes, it feels all the sweeter. Like when Ann passed her pathophysiology—one of her hardest courses to date.

“I felt like I could stand on top of a mountain and yell to everybody that I did it because that is a very, very challenging class. I had a lot of personal stuff going on during that term and I really didn't know if I was going to be able to do it, and so now it feels like I can do anything,” Ann says.

She recommends making friends in nursing school.

“I found some really great people in my cohort. We rely on each other heavily because we know exactly what the other person is going through. Sometimes you just need that person to complain with, and then you'll feel a little bit better afterwards.”

Ann’s other key advice: If possible, gain some exposure in the healthcare field first—like she did as a nursing or resident assistant—to get hands on patient care.

“You don't want to invest your time and money in nursing school only to get to clinicals and find out that it's not what you thought it was. There's Grey's Anatomy, and then there's real life,” she says. “So I think it's really important to get that experience.”

Looking Forward

Ann dreams of becoming a labor and delivery nurse—an area of medicine she finds endlessly fascinating.

“It’s just a natural body process, yet it’s experienced so differently by each person. How many people in the world have given birth, right? But no two people have exactly the same experience. It blows my mind,” she says.

A self-described labor and delivery nerd, Ann follows a variety of birth blogs, YouTube channels and the Instagram account Bundle Birth Nurses, which posts weekly interactive exercises.

“Every Tuesday they post emergency scenarios, and say here’s your patient, here’s the fetal heart tracing, what’s going on with them? What should you do? What drugs do you think will help,” she describes. “It’s fun. I love it.”

The fact that her grandmother Clara worked in labor and delivery may have also influenced her interest.

Ann is on pace to graduate in December—and will soon add a third generation of nurses to her family.

About the author

Sharon Rolenc

Sharon is a public relations manager at American Public Education, Inc., where she works on media relations and storytelling on behalf of Rasmussen University. A first-generation college graduate, she understands firsthand the transformative power of education. She is honored to share the many inspiring stories of Rasmussen's students and alums.

Sharon Rolenc

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