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Blugold follows her own path on way to earning nursing degree

| Judy Berthiaume

After earning her nursing assistant certification and working in a nursing home, Kara Trainor discovered she had a passion for nursing and knew she wanted a career in the health care field.

“I was in awe of the nurses and how many lives they impacted,” Trainor says. “I knew that I needed to spend the rest of my life being a nurse.”

This month, Trainor will graduate from UW-Eau Claire with her nursing degree, and after taking her nursing licensure exams, begin her career as a nurse for Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.

While she soon will begin her dream job, her path was not easy nor typical.

It was, however, life changing.

A native of Menomonie, Trainor came to UW-Eau Claire with plans to live at home while she worked toward her nursing degree.

Her plan quickly fell apart when she struggled academically during her first year of college and had to retake a couple of classes.

UW-Eau Claire’s nursing program is highly competitive, with more students applying for spots than the program can accommodate. Given her rocky academic start, Trainor knew she wouldn’t land one of the coveted seats.

That’s when her academic advisor offered a suggestion that turned Trainor’s world upside down in a good way.

She encouraged Trainor to consider relocating to Marshfield, where she could earn her UW-Eau Claire nursing degree through the university’s satellite nursing program.

While there are limited spots in UW-Eau Claire’s nursing program on its main campus in Eau Claire, there are seats available at the Marshfield nursing site.

Trainor jumped at the opportunity.

“I applied and was accepted, and they actually contacted me and asked if I could start a semester early, which, of course, I did,” Trainor says of enrolling in the Marshfield nursing program. “It was the best decision I have ever made.”

She packed her bags, found a room to rent near the Marshfield campus and dove into her studies.

Now graduating, she has her long-dreamed-of nursing degree, a newly discovered confidence in her skills, and a network of faculty and fellow nursing graduates who will support her personally and professionally, she says.

“The best thing about this campus is the smaller cohort,” Trainor says of the Marshfield site. “We ended up with 14 students and we have become a family. We see each other more than our own families, so it is great that we were all able to get along.”

Every student in the Marshfield program is committed to earning their nursing degree and grateful that UW-Eau Claire offers multiple paths to help them get there, Trainor says.

“I can remember vividly a day when the dean came into our skills lab and said the clinical for the next semester was not set yet and it may have to be a P.M. clinical versus a day shift,” Trainor says. “Our entire class responded with, ‘that’s okay, we’re just grateful to be here.’

“It almost brought her to tears. We are all so thankful for the opportunities and experiences we have been given.”

The smaller number of students also allows students to get to know their nursing instructors very well, Trainor says.

“We were able to develop professional rapport and build relationships with those who were teaching us,” Trainor says. “It made things like letters of recommendation and references a breeze when it came time to apply for internships and jobs.”

While all her instructors were wonderful, Suzanne Voros, a clinical assistant professor, played an especially significant role in her college education, Trainor says.

Voros was her instructor during an eight-week medical surgical clinical, which is when she began directly caring for patients, Trainor says.

Students knew exactly what Voros expected of them every day and she regularly reminded them that they were the nurses so they could make the decisions, Trainor says, noting that Voros has a passion for patient care as well as teaching.

“I was in awe of everything she was teaching and showing me,” Trainor says of Voros. “When we finished that clinical, she remained a huge part of my life and my classmates’ lives. When we struggled with a class, we would go to her office and she would help us with assignments and ease our stresses. Her office became a safe space for me, a place where I could ask questions about school and nursing, a place where I could cry and let out my frustration, and a place I could be understood.

“Under her wing, I went from a nervous nursing student who lacked confidence in my skills, and blossomed into a confident student nurse who knew what I was doing. She turned me into who I always wanted to be.”

Trainor says her story is a good reminder to current and future Blugolds that there is not just one way to make your dreams come true.

“The Marshfield site has been nothing short of amazing for me,” Trainor says. “Not everyone has the same typical college life experience. As I prepare to enter the nursing field, I can tell employers how dedicated I am because I picked up my life to make my dreams happen.”

Top photo caption: Kara Trainor will graduate with her nursing degree after completing her studies at UW-Eau Claire’s nursing site in Marshfield.