Senior Ashley Belsan was a featured guest for the Mennonite College of Nursing’s new podcast, MCN On Air. She sat down with podcast host Noah Schlosser on October 19, 2021, and shared her perspective as a double major in Spanish and nursing. Here’s an excerpt of their conversation, highlighting how her dual interests helped shape her unique nursing school experience. We invite you to listen to the fifth episode of MCN On Air in its entirety.
That’s a pretty interesting combination, Spanish and nursing. Would you tell us a little bit about that?
Well, I did not come into college with the intention of continuing with Spanish. I took it for four years in high school because, like many, I had to take a language. And then, when I got to college, I figured, if I spent four years investing in this skill, I might as well actually be able to use it and finally become fluent. So, I decided to do a Spanish minor, and then, when talking with the nursing advisor, Kileigh, she encouraged me to do a second major. She was like, “Sure, just make it another major! Study abroad while you’re at it!” And at first, I thought she might have been a little bit crazy, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, and she worked with me to make it all possible in four years.
Very cool. So, what was the inspiration for you to go into nursing, then?
Similarly, I did not intend to go into nursing when I was younger. I did not enjoy science growing up. And then, when I was a sophomore in high school, my grandpa had a lot of heart complications and had a defibrillator and pacemaker put in. And I realized, in that moment, that those doctors and nurses saved his life, and I wanted to give that gift to somebody else. So, I started looking at health care, looked into physical therapy, physician, surgeon, and I landed on nursing, because it was the perfect balance of some of those higher-level skills, but also a lot of patient interaction. Whereas with a physician, you might move through several patients throughout the day, a nurse can be there and work side-by-side with them throughout the day.
I love that description. What are you involved with at MCN? Tell us a little bit about that. I believe you’re involved in the CAUSE program.
I am! They actually reached out to those of us in the CAUSE program and asked if we’d be interested in doing this. So, I am a part of the CAUSE grant and Leadership Academy. I am a big proponent of both of those. I would highly recommend them to every nursing student here. The CAUSE program essentially is a grant that our College of Nursing got, to allow a small group of students to have extra clinical experiences in primary care clinics in town. I am at the Community Health Care Clinic in Normal, which is a free clinic for lower-income and underserved populations. It’s got a predominantly Spanish-speaking patient population, which is what really appeals to me.
That’s perfect for you!
Yes, it is. It worked out really well, and so they placed me there so that I could kind of marry those two interests together and use that skill to help those patients. I really enjoyed getting to do that. When I studied abroad in Spain, I actually took a Spanish in Healthcare class, so that I could learn some of that medical terminology to then be able to apply to my time in the CAUSE program and at the Community Health Care Clinic.
So it definitely seems like the combination of the Spanish speaking and the CAUSE grant has really created something that has not only benefited your experience here at MCN, but also has been benefiting the people you’ve been interacting with at the Community Health Care Clinic.
Yeah, I think the experience in the CAUSE program and at Community Health Care Clinic is what brought the two interests together. I think, initially, they were two very separate things. And, you know, on one side was all the stuff I was doing with Spanish, and on the other was all the nursing and healthcare stuff. And being a part of the CAUSE program and being at the Community Health Care Clinic kind of showed me how the two could connect and how I could use some of the other skills and things that I have in my life to give my patients the best possible care.
You’re also involved in the Leadership Academy. Can you tell me how that experience has been for you?
Awesome (laugh). I’ve really enjoyed it so far. I’ve only had two days of it, but essentially, it’s a program for seniors that they can be a part of where we get education about leadership skills. I would call them professional and business skills. Things like how to negotiate a salary, and apply for jobs, and be successful in NCLEX, and different things like that. And I thoroughly enjoyed the first couple days of it, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of it.
What areas of nursing do you feel like you kind of gravitate toward? The Community Health Care Clinic is something that you obviously feel very comfortable with. Is there a specific area of nursing that you feel like you’re just kind of made for?
There are definitely several interests of mine. I thought that going into my clinicals, I would narrow down my choices, but instead, the list got longer. So, the nice thing about nursing is that there are endless possibilities of what you could go into and what field or specialty you could be a part of. And I really like that there’s so much flexibility, and I could work somewhere for a couple of years and then go somewhere else where I have an interest. Right now, I’m interested in cardiology, cardiovascular specialty, because of my experience with my grandpa that kind of got me into nursing in the first place. But then, also, I think the heart’s really cool, and I like that body system. So, cardiovascular stuff I find really interesting. I interned on a cardiovascular unit at Memorial Medical Center over this past summer. It was awesome. It was a really great experience; I learned so much. It solidified the interest that I had in that specialty. And then, I even got to have some extra experiences where I went to the cardiovascular operating room and the cath (catheterization) lab, and got to see some of those procedures.
That’s excellent. How did you land that internship?
A friend of mine who graduated from MCN a couple years ago had interned there, and then took a job there right after graduating, and told me to keep an eye out for when that internship would be coming up. And so, I kind of used her experience from her time at MCN and made the connection and got that internship. And several other students from ISU got internships there. One person from my clinical group had an internship there, too, in the emergency room.
I love that in your internship with Memorial Medical Center and, also, with the Community Health Care Clinic, and even just going into the double major, there have always been people who are watching your back, saying, “You should try this. You should do that, and make this experience of being at MCN really worthwhile.”
Yeah, I would definitely say there are a lot of people in my corner. And, I’ve often thought about if I had gone to other institutions and other universities that I was interested in when I was going through the college search process, and I don’t think I would have done half as many things if I had gone to those other universities. I think that ISU was just the perfect fit for me, and I’ve gotten to do so much more than I would have anywhere else.
The last question I have for you is, for people who are thinking about nursing school, why should they choose MCN? What’s the thing that sets us apart?
There’s so many things that I could say for that. I think MCN speaks for itself. I don’t know that I even need to advocate for it because, I mean, when you look at their pass rates on the NCLEX and different things like that, how competitive it is to get into the program, that speaks to just what a great program it is, and what a good job they do of preparing and equipping nurses.
Yeah, the standard of excellence.
Yes, absolutely, there is definitely a standard of excellence here. I think another reasons is, they do a tremendous job of supporting students and helping them along the way. I don’t doubt for a second that my faculty care about me doing well and me being successful. I just met with a teacher, and we were looking back at what I had gotten wrong on my test, and she said, “You know, I’m surprised that you got this wrong, let’s figure it out.” You know, “Let’s gets the bottom of this and figure out how we can help you be successful on the next go-around.” So, the faculty, both the teachers in your class, and also the administrative staff, they all really care about students, and they have a reputation for excellence in everything.
The purpose of this podcast is to inform people, and motivate and inspire people. Before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to motivate and inspire students, because nursing school is hard. And the struggle is real. And we’re all in it together. But, you can do this. Don’t think for a second that you can’t. It’ll be worth it in the end. It’ll be worth it, even day-to-day. You know, you might do poorly on a test on a Tuesday, and then on Wednesday, you’re in clinical and you have a tremendous experience and you learn so much, and you’re like, “It’s not that big a deal I didn’t do that well on that test, because I’m doing it right in clinical practice, and I gave a flu shot to a man who was very worried about it, and he’s like, ‘wait, you gave me that shot? Like, that’s my best flu shot I’ve ever had. I didn’t even feel it!’” So, you can do it. Don’t get so caught up in the grades and being perfect. Focus on learning the skills and learning the material, and how to advocate for your patient, and do all the interventions that you need to get them well. Don’t lose heart.
You can learn more about the Leadership Academy, CAUSE, and our partnership with the Community Health Care Clinic at Nursing.IllinoisState.edu.