Brooklyn Park Practical Nursing Grad Trades Scissors for Stethoscope
By Will Erstad on 11/12/2013
For most people, a trip to the doctor’s office is not the highlight of their week, so a frosty nurse making them feel unwelcome can add to their stress. Fortunately for any of her future patients, Brooklyn Park Practical Nursing graduate Melinda Odegard has been making people feel at ease her whole life. “I’ve always been really social,” said Odegard. “From my time working [as a cosmetologist] I know that I really enjoy working with people and making them feel comfortable.”
From hair care to healthcare
Before attending Rasmussen College Odegard spent nine years working as a cosmetologist. While Odegard says she enjoyed the interaction she had with her clients she felt like she had hit a ceiling in her career. After changing fields and taking a position as a nursing assistant, she realized she had found her calling.
“After my second week of training it kind of hit me,” said Odegard. “I realized This is it. I’m made to be a nurse.”
Odegard then spent time researching nursing programs around the area while taking a few classes at another school. After asking her coworkers and other nurses for their input on where she should go to school, she found the amount of support provided by Rasmussen College to be a big draw as a returning student.
“[Rasmussen College] helped me every step of the way whereas the other school I went to just kind of threw me in there,” said Odegard.
With that support in mind, Odegard signed up for classes in the Practical Nursing program and began her nursing education.
Support and faculty make a difference
Prior to attending Rasmussen College, Odegard admits she wasn’t happy with her academic performance. Despite her best efforts to ace her classes she was consistently getting B’s and C’s. Odegard says that trend changed once she enrolled at Rasmussen College due to the willingness of the instructors and faculty to go the extra mile to help.
“I had a lot of doubts when I first came to Rasmussen [College],” said Odegard. “The faculty and staff there showed me that if I was willing to put the work in I could do it. I never felt like there wasn’t someone there to help me if I needed it.”
One instance that stood out to Odegard was the extra help her Humanities instructor, Jorge Evans, provided her in developing writing strategies and improving her skills as a writer.
“I struggled in the English class I had taken before I went to Rasmussen [College] so he went out of his way to help me outside of class,” said Odegard. “It was like I had a little English or Composition class in addition to Humanities.”
A major hurdle for any practical nursing student to clear is passing the NCLEX-PN exam, which is required to become a licensed nurse. Odegard says she was a “horrible” test taker when she first enrolled, but says the practice exams and her coursework prepared her well.
“[Before], I would get testing anxiety and get really nervous,” said Odegard. “The test prep program had questions exactly like the NCLEX so I got more and more comfortable with the format each quarter.”
That comfort level paid off, as Odegard passed her exam and is currently working as an LPN.
Setting an example
Pursuing an education in nursing isn’t just personally fulfilling for Odegard, it also serves as a way for her to better provide for her son, as well as a way to set a good example for him in the future.
“My son is my biggest motivation,” said Odegard. “Being the primary caretaker, I just want to do better and show him how all the work I’m doing pays off.”
Odegard says the example she set, as well as an explanation of how an education leads to higher earning potential has interested her son in pursuing higher education in the future.
“Being able to show him what my wages were before and then comparing it with what I’d make with this, or a bachelor’s degree, helped show him how all the work I’m putting in will pay off,” said Odegard. “Because of that I’ve kind of talked him into wanting to get his bachelor’s degree now.”
Applying her skills
Part of the nursing curriculum at Rasmussen College requires students to gain clinical experience. This is often a student’s first exposure to nursing in a real-life setting. The variables of human interaction can create a little bit of stress initially, but Odegard says over time the experience allowed her to refine her skills.
“In the beginning you’re learning [from] a book, and it can be really challenging when you [start] working with people who respond to what you do and have different ways they want things done,” said Odegard. “I was definitely a little gun-shy at first, but with time you really build your confidence.”
In addition, Odegard says patient interaction can be a little intimidating at first, however, a student’s focus should be on making them feel as comfortable as possible.
“My goal when I walk into a patient’s room, as long as it was appropriate, is to either make them laugh or get a smile out of them,” said Odegard. “If you walk in with a smile, it’s addicting, and they’ll respond positively to it.”
Continuing her education
Now that Odegard has found a calling that suits her, she plans to continue her education and looks to become a registered nurse in the near future. After that Odegard says she plans to eventually continue climbing the ladder and earn her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
“With nursing, the great thing is you can work at different units and [learn] different skills – but it’s all at your own pace,” said Odegard. “It’s a lot more fulfilling [than what I was doing before]. I was really good at doing hair and I liked helping people in that way, but I really [enjoy] the challenge and room for growth that comes with nursing.”
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