Trials and tribulations of a UNC nursing student

By Jessica Kenyon

            For most students, midterms produce several different emotions: stress, anxiety, exhaustion and even relief.
            For Staci Harris, a junior at the University of Northern Colorado majoring in nursing, high levels of stress and determination accompany midterms. This is her first year in the nursing program at UNC.

Staci Harris takes a break from studying to catch up with her boyfriend Denis O'Neill.
Staci Harris takes a break from studying to catch up with her boyfriend Denis O'Neill. Photo by Jessica Kenyon

            “Nursing school is one of the hardest things I have ever done,” she said. “The hardest part of the program is getting used to the workload and having better time management.”
            The nursing program at UNC is a four-year program, and according to Harris it can be an extremely vigorous workload. Students take anywhere from 13 to 15 credit hours a semester. Along with nursing classes, students must also complete approximately 180 hours of clinicals each semester for two years.
            Harris was born in Springhill, a small town in northern Louisiana, on April 7, 1990. Her family moved to Colorado when she was 8.
            By the age of 13, she had already decided on her dream job. “I always knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I decided to go into nursing because of the higher amount of interaction time with the patients,” she said.
            The nursing program at UNC is very competitive to get into but has a reasonably high pass rate of 93 percent on the NCLEX, the examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States.
            “I chose UNC because I wanted to stay in state for school, and I have always heard that they have one of the best programs in Colorado. After visiting the campus on a preview day and getting to see the nursing school labs and all of the simulation equipment, I knew I wanted to be in their program,” she said.
            The nursing program at UNC is well known throughout the state, considering it’s one of the few bachelor of nursing degrees available to students. Most schools only offer an associates degree in nursing.
            “I think that the faculty makes the UNC nursing program stand out against the rest. They are all great teachers and are always ready to help with whatever you need,” she said.  “I also think that the program's focus on the importance of simulation makes it stand out.”

Watch a video of nursing students in class.

            A critical step in every nursing program is the completion of clinicals, which allow students a hands-on experience. This semester, nursing students from UNC are completing their clinicals at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. Each student works a 12-hour shift once a week.
            Not everyone is as fortunate as Harris when it comes to getting accepted into the program. “There are anywhere from 200 to 300 students that apply each year and only 72 get accepted,” said Laurie Walker, assistant professor of nursing at UNC.
             Unfortunately for Anne Bailey, a senior at UNC who is applying to nursing schools throughout the state, she was denied admission to UNC’s program.
             “The hardest part about becoming a nurse is applying to nursing school and actually getting accepted,” Bailey said.
             According to Harris, the actual application process for the UNC program is pretty easy because it isn't a lengthy process. The hardest part is maintaining a high grade point average. The UNC nursing program uses GPA as the only means of determining who gets in. The cutoff point is usually between a 3.4 and a 3.6 GPA. The application process usually takes place in the candidate’s sophomore year.
            Although the process is tough and competitive, the outcome of nursing school can be very rewarding. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Also, nurses can expect an average annual salary of about $62,000.
            As for Harris, her goal for what she wants to accomplish in nursing has not changed.
            “After I graduate I want to work in labor and delivery or in the neonatal intensive care unit,” she said. “I have always loved working with children and I think it would be a great opportunity to work with families and their newborns.”

UNC School of Nursing Contact Information:
University of Northern Colorado
School of Nursing
Campus Box 125
Greeley, Colorado 80639
Phone (970) 351-2293
FAX (970) 351-1707
The nursing offices are located in Gunter Hall #3080 in the central campus area.