Military members know that making the transition from active duty to civilian life isn’t always easy, but 24-year-old Nick Hensley is confident that Illinois State University provides the right environment for him to make the transition from U.S. Air Force medic to nursing student this fall.
“As an Air Force medic, my scope of practice and medical skills are similar to nursing, plus some emergency/field medicine,” said Hensley.
Hensley is currently a member of the Illinois Air National Guard, a reserve component of the United States Air Force. His unit is based in Peoria, but he is no stranger to the Bloomington-Normal area, where he lives with his wife, Kaitlyn (Soderstrom) Hensley, a 2019 graduate of Illinois State. Hensley completed an associate degree with a concentration in nursing at Heartland Community College before applying to the Mennonite College of Nursing as a transfer student. He received his acceptance letter in March.
“This last January I got recalled to active duty to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, first in Tinley Park for a month, and then they sent us down to Carbondale for another three months,” said Hensley. “I was actually vaccinating people on shift when I got an email from Mennonite College of Nursing saying my application was accepted.”
Hensley has travelled around the country as an Air Force medic. He believes that his previous experience as a medic will be beneficial to his success as a future nurse.
“I think I’ll have a leg up on some of the actual skills, like patient bedside manner and medical procedures,” said Hensley. “The military is definitely stressful, so I think that will help me cope and accommodate to the stresses of nursing school and being a nurse. High-stress environments are familiar to me, so I think I’ll be able to adjust pretty easily to the job.”
Illinois State is home to approximately 500 veterans including Hensley. He knows that being part of a supportive community will make the transition to campus easier, and Hensley has already found that in the veterans service fraternity Omega Delta Sigma.
“It was a little hard adjusting being active-duty military to being a full-time student, so those guys made the transition easier because they’ve all been through the same process that I have and understand the transition from military to civilian,” said Hensley. “You miss the camaraderie of being active duty, so having that group that you can be a part of again and rely on is awesome.”
Hensley plans to return as an active member of the Air Force after graduating in two years. In the meantime, he is excited for the opportunities awaiting him as a Redbird and about the knowledge he will gain in nursing school, such as the “why” behind tasks he performs.
“As a military medic, being a medical professional for almost six years now, I know what’s wrong with a patient and how to fix it, but I don’t know the ‘why,’ so I’m excited to learn the pathophysiology of ‘Why is this happening?’ to the patient,” said Hensley.
Hensley has advice for other military members who are making or considering the transition from the military to college.
“Go to the veterans center, and reach out to fellow veteran students, whether it’s for tutoring or if you just need someone to talk to and hang out with,” said Hensley. “The veterans center at Illinois State is always busy.”
Read about all of the students featured in our “Newest Redbirds” series at News.IllinoisState.edu.