Spencer Simpson is a senior nursing student from Momence, Illinois. In a few months, she will be graduating with a B.S.N. degree, and has already accepted a position as an RN in the Colorectal/General Surgical Unit at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
When Simpson was 12, her brother was in a near fatal car accident. “I remember vividly how terrifying it was when I first visited him in the Intensive Care Unit,” said Simpson. She recalls it was her brother’s nurse that helped change her impression of the hospital from a scary, dark place to one of hope. “I thought of how wonderful it would be if I could help people the way my brother’s nurse helped our family. I knew that when I was older, I wanted to be someone who can help save lives and bring light into hospitals.”
Simpson started looking into nursing schools and came across the high NCLEX-RN pass rates at Illinois State University Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN). “This was very important to me,” said Simpson. “By having high pass rates for B.S.N. graduates, I knew this was a very successful program. Also, the high-tech simulation lab also attracted me to MCN.” After applying to Illinois State, she was accepted as an early admit into MCN’s program.
During her sophomore year, she wanted to participate more in the Student Nurses Association (SNA). “I asked the president at that time, Kate Alleavitch, if there was anything that she needed help with so I could become more involved. She took me under her wing and helped me find opportunities for leadership.”
Simpson was elected as the SNA vice president for the 2014-15 year, and was elected as the SNA president for the 2015-16 year. As president, she works with the other officers to plan volunteer events, fundraisers, and learning opportunities for the SNA’s 230 members. “This has been a great experience to develop my leadership skills and get to know faculty and other students in the nursing program.”
SNA is known to have a strong emphasis on community service. “My favorite accomplishment of SNA is that we were the most represented registered student organization at Illinois State University’s St. Jude Up ‘Til Dawn two years in a row. This year SNA helped this event raise over $203,000!”
Mayo Clinic externship
Simpson wanted to find an externship opportunity, and while doing an online search she found one at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “I really thought it was a long shot, but I thought I might as well put myself out there and at least try.” She was offered a 10-week externship to work in the Colorectal/General Surgical Unit last summer.
Simpson was extremely nervous to be so far away from home. It was a six-hour drive from her hometown to Rochester. Despite her fears, once she was there she fell in love with the city and was incredibly happy she stepped out of her comfort zone.
There were 56 interns in the program from all over the country. Everyone became incredibly close, said Simpson, who added she considers some of them her best friends. She worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each day, she was assigned to a clinical coach and worked alongside them throughout the shift. “In the mornings we would look up our patients, classify their acuity level, and perform our morning assessments.” Throughout the day, she participated in direct patient care, interprofessional care-team rounding, discharge planning, and contributed to the patient’s plan of care.
“Mayo Clinic provides quality care that always puts the needs of each patient first, and I witnessed that first hand every single day I was there. It was such an honor to learn from one of the best hospitals in the country. Every nurse I was with taught me so much and I cannot wait to go back to my same unit and continue to learn and grow as a nurse.”
Simpson said she felt very prepared for this externship because of the skills and values she learned at MCN. She hopes that her experience will help inspire other nursing students who are looking into externships. “If there’s an opportunity you find intriguing, but you don’t think you’re good enough, the best thing you can do is try because you might be surprised of the outcome.”