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Nursing, Spanish are a caring combination for graduating Blugold

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: Elise Tipcke had two study abroad experiences that she says will help her become a better nurse after graduation.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories profiling Bugolds graduating in December.

Elise Tipcke was envious hearing her University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire nursing classmates talk about how they’d found their niche in the profession while she hadn’t yet discovered her true calling.

Then Tipcke and her classmates traveled to Buffalo and Chippewa County farms during a nursing clinical rotation to hold pop-up clinics for Spanish-speaking workers. That clinical rotation provided by the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic brought Tipcke’s future career into clear focus.

“It wasn’t until then that I realized this is what I’m meant to do,” Tipcke says. “I was tearing up because I had found what I am passionate about. That rural farms clinical made me realize what I want.”

Tipcke, who will graduate Dec. 16, is immersed in using her nursing and Spanish double major as a nurse intern at CARE (Community Access Resources Education) Clinic in Red Wing, Minnesota, a nonprofit that provides free or low-cost medical and dental services to people who don’t have health insurance or access to affordable dental care. She works three days a week at the clinic, working with mostly Spanish-speaking patients.

“I think the majority of my day I am speaking in Spanish,” Tipcke says. “Around 90% of the population we serve is only Spanish speaking, and most of the care I provide is in Spanish. I also sit in on provider visits as an interpreter when we are lacking an interpreter.

“I found that with nursing and Spanish I can be that bridge, especially for people who don’t have health insurance or health care access, I can just be that bridge with the language barrier and being a nurse.”

Tipcke always has had a passion for learning a second language since growing up in Goodhue, Minnesota, a farming community of about 1,200 people where she had several Hispanic friends and classmates who were children of immigrant farm workers.

When it came time to pick a college, UW-Eau Claire’s affordability and strong study abroad program helped lead her to follow in her nursing graduate sister’s footsteps as a Blugold.

Tipcke had two memorable study abroad experiences: A five-month stay in Valladolid, Spain, in spring 2022 and a two-week faculty-led immersion to Guatemala in January 2023. The experiences abroad have helped make her a better nurse, Tipcke says.

“I definitely use what I learned from both places almost every single day, especially in work,” Tipcke says, noting she provides care to Guatemalan immigrants at the Red Wing clinic. “Just knowing their culture, where they’re from, everything they’ve gone through on their journey to the U.S., I use the knowledge I gained in Guatemala every day.”

Dr. Lisa Schiller, associate professor of nursing, instructed Tipcke in a community health and leadership course in spring 2022. She recalls how Tipcke used her varied skills to interact with people at the pop-up clinics.

“Elise provided compassionate culturally sensitive care to mostly Latinx immigrant dairy workers in west-central Wisconsin,” Schiller says. “She was able to integrate her nursing skills with her Spanish language skills and demonstrated a passion for public/community health.

After graduation, Tipcke plans to continue her duties at the Red Wing clinic and also work at a health care facility. 

“She is going to be an amazing nurse and I wish her much luck after graduation,” Schiller says.