PLNU Nursing Students Face Challenges and Rewards

An expecting mother arrives at the hospital only to be met with the news that she will have to deliver a stillborn child. A premature infant begins to turn blue in the face until someone steps in and helps. In these moments of life or death, nurses are the heroes that take action to provide care when it is needed most.

Point Loma Nazarene University nursing students know this reality better than anyone. These scenarios are just a few examples of what they have witnessed first hand. They have experienced a plethora of adrenaline inducing events, yet something pushes them beyond the stress of saving lives and inspires them to continue in the nursing profession. 

For Sam Whitley, a third year PLNU nursing student, her passion for nursing began at 11 years old when a chance encounter with a nurse at Rady Children’s Hospital changed her life. As Whitley prepared for her operation, overcome with nerves, it was her nurse that eased her anxieties and reassured her that everything was going to be okay.  From that moment forward, she knew it was her calling to enter into the medical field. “I want to make people feel comforted and safe the way that nurse helped me,” Whitley said. 

She is doing just that as a student nurse at the same hospital where she first discovered her passion, under the same doctor who operated on her nine years ago. 

For Whitley, the realities of being a nurse hit hard this semester when she started her clinical rotation between medical surgery, pediatrics, and OB/GYN. Her most dynamic day on the job was when she helped to deliver a baby. 

“Everything was exciting and fast-paced. Seeing the joy on the dad’s face when he saw his child for the first time is what keeps me going,” Whitley said.

 She quickly learned, however, that not every day will be one of pure joy. The very next patient she saw was a woman who was about to give birth to her deceased child. According to her overseer, it was the worst death she has ever seen. 

Whitley said that she went numb in the delivery room. Every ounce of her was tingling and in shock, fighting the urge to burst into tears. Remembering how she kept her composure, Whitley said, “waves of emotion were hard to fight, you just have to be strong.” 

Colin Topoleski’s story begins at 12 years old, when a ride along with his paramedic father and crew gradually turned into a passion for helping people in critical care. After years of hearing stories about all of the people his father has saved, he knew there was a place for him in that field as well. 

Topoleski rotates between the ICU and ER floor at UCSD Hillcrest. He recalls caring for a patient who was a prisoner, requiring two guards with him at all times. Topoleski was responsible for properly medicating the patient. 

“It is super nerve-racking and scary knowing you are responsible for a patient. You see them in poor health and it’s sad to see,” Topoleski said. 

Handling patients can be difficult at times, especially when someone’s health continues to decline after numerous efforts to reach improvement. 

“The negative moments can easily cast a shadow on the good moments, but the few good moments you get make it all worth it,” Topoleski said.

Rachel Lichti knew from an early age that she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her parents and go into the medical field. With her mother being a nurse and her father being a doctor, caring for people always seemed like second nature. This notion was solidified one day during her pediatrics rotation when an infant who was attached to assisted breathing started to turn blue in the face. 

Lichti recalls how frantic the mother was, begging for anyone to come and save her baby. Lichti was the only person around to help. She remembers the doctor coming in shortly after and treating her like a real nurse and not just a student. This was the moment that defined her calling as a pediatric intensive care nurse.  

To Lichti, her most important goal is to “incorporate my faith into my practice and give people hope when they feel hopeless,” Lichti said. 

PLNU nursing students are gaining real life experience before they fully enter into the nursing world. They have been challenged in many ways, and yet their calling to help people still remains. 

“Just being able to help somebody at their most trying times is my greatest satisfaction,” Topoleski said.

By: Camden Painton