Ministering at Mayo

By Jantzen Haley | Photography by Kurt Stepnitz |

Ten alumni graduate from Arkansas’ best nursing program to nation’s best hospital

Carr College of Nursing is ranked the No. 1 nursing program in Arkansas for 2018 according to registerednursing.org. Since 1975, the program has trained and graduated quality nurses with an emphasis on Christian servanthood. With a rigorous curriculum and an excellent pass rate, including 100 percent the past two years, on the national licensing exam, Harding nurses are well equipped for success in their nursing careers. Ten graduates took their training and moved to Rochester, Minnesota, to start postgraduate life at the hospital U.S. News and World Report ranks best in the nation.

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit medical center based in Rochester. Its mission, according to its website, is to inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research. Its motto is, “The needs of the patient come first.” These qualities, among others, are what attracted these alumni to join the ranks of the more than 30,000 allied health staff at Mayo Clinic’s Minnesota medical center.

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Ashley Fincher graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a minor in psychology and started at Mayo Clinic in August 2016. She was board treasurer of the Arkansas Nursing Student Association during her time at Harding, which is what led to her learning about and pursuing a career at Mayo Clinic.

Having spent most of my childhood in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, I had always thought that I would begin my nursing career there. However, an encounter with Mayo Clinic representatives changed the course of my life, which I believe was a blessing from God. I love my job and the people with whom I work. Looking back, I can see how putting my trust in God gave me the confidence to apply. I truly believe this is the place I was meant to begin my nursing career.

I am a registered nurse in the cardiovascular surgical progressive care unit. One thing that is unique about the unit is that I have to have the knowledge not only to provide care to adults but also to children as young as 1 year of age. I also serve as a preceptor for new nurses and as a member of the unit’s education committee where I work with a group of fellow nurses, nurse managers and a nurse education specialist to organize the training and education of new nurses and continuing education of current nurses.

I have found that if I just slow down and take five minutes out of a busy day to talk with each of my patients about what matters to them, it can make all the difference in their day. I could go on and on about all of the memories that make me love what I do. It is very true that my job comes with many challenges, but I have been very blessed to work in a unit that has amazing teamwork where we can find joy and laughter together even on difficult days. There is nothing better than being able to work at an amazing hospital, with amazing people, doing a job that I love.

Two of the most important things emphasized in the Harding nursing program are, one, how to critically think through problems and situations to provide the best care for our patients, and two, how to see the patient as a whole person and not just their disease or illness. The hands-on instruction we received proved to be an invaluable foundation that helped me during my initial training at Mayo Clinic. I will be forever grateful for how well Harding’s nursing program prepared me both academically and spiritually to successfully launch my career.

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Sierra Hollingsworth graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a minor in health care missions. She started at Mayo Clinic in July 2016 and spent two years as an internal medicine nurse before transferring to the obstetric specialty.

Mayo Clinic was just a very well-known hospital that had a website we could use as a reference as a nursing student. I never really thought of it as a potential work place until a hospital forgot to interview me. I thought and prayed about what I should do. Then, I remembered that a fellow classmate (Fincher) had spoken of getting a job at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I decided to apply and see if that was where God wanted me to go — turns out, it was.

My current job is a labor and delivery nurse. My main responsibility is to advocate for the mother and baby’s safety and well-being as one entity as well as two separate human beings. The most rewarding aspect is when I know I did everything I could to provide the best possible care to the moms and babies. I also find that helping my fellow co-workers learn new things or lighten their load is very rewarding.

The most challenging aspect is probably knowing where the fine line is of sharing my faith in a professional setting. At Mayo Clinic, we see patients from many cultures — Muslim, Hindu, Buddhism, Greek Orthodox, Atheist, Catholic, Methodist, Sikhism, Jainism and more. Because of the hospital’s status, we get patients that fly here from all over the world to receive care. We have chaplains at the hospital for many of the different religions, but I do still hope for the opportunity to share my faith if they are interested and open to learning.

As I work with different staff and train new nurses, I see more and more how amazing my education was at Harding. The professors and clinical instructors required a lot, but they were always available if we needed something regarding school or otherwise. I believe that student-instructor relationship makes a huge difference.

Co-workers on a regular basis will ask how I know such minute details about a disease, pathophysiology or medication side effects, and I know that it is only because my instructors expected a lot out of me and provided me with the support to succeed. Carr College of Nursing curriculum and staff do an amazing job instilling critical thinking, work ethic, respect, values, dignity, autonomy, integrity, service, faith in practice, continued professional development and, most importantly, following God.

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Brittney Firquain graduated in December 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and began working at Mayo Clinic in February 2017. She currently works on the medical cardiac intensive care unit.

I originally applied for a position thinking that starting my career at Mayo Clinic would provide me with incredible learning opportunities. The unique patient stories, demographics and diagnoses, the collaborative working relationship among members of the health care team, and Mayo’s focus on the importance of nursing assessment and education was very attractive to me.

ICU nurses are in a unique position that allows them to be in close proximity to their patient and their patient’s family for extended amounts of time, which creates the opportunity for education and deeper understanding of the unique needs of a patient.

Making patients and their families feel well-supported, educated and empowered regardless of their clinical outcome is very rewarding. Walking through hard conversations about death, end of life, and goals of care are made easier and more rewarding when there is a high level of trust and confidence between the patient and their nurse.

Though it can also be the most rewarding part of the job, perceiving the individualized needs of the patient and their family members is often very difficult due to differences in preference, culture and worldview — adjusting to each patient’s different goals and expectations is often challenging.

I am able to serve God and others in my workplace by being present and trying to stimulate conversation about ethics and culture and by creating a positive work environment.

Speaking openly about my own faith and asking patients or co-workers about their beliefs usually opens up conversation, but I am always praying that my interactions and words at work are honoring to the Lord. Harding prepared me for this job by educating about the complexities of emotional and spiritual care that come with being a nurse.

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Scarlet Schreiner graduated in December 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and began working for Mayo Clinic in February 2017. She is currently a cardiac surgery progressive care nurse.

After graduation, I wanted to challenge myself and move to a city where I had never been. I started applying to various hospitals across the United States and decided to take a chance and submit an application to Mayo Clinic. I was impressed by their mission and values. Mayo’s main focus is “the needs of the patient come first,” and I liked that everything I read about them seemed to emanate that value.

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the drastic and quick transition my patients go through during their recovery. Most patients will come to our unit with multiple chest tubes, temporary pacemakers, catheters, central lines and more. Over the course of three to five days, they get everything removed, rehabilitate through frequent daily walks and physical therapy, and end up leaving the hospital to go home with their families. It is fun to be able to empower patients in their recovery process and educate them so they can return home feeling well and confident. Harding’s nursing program is unique in the fact that it allows students to spend a pretty significant amount of clinical time in ICU settings. Because of that, I felt so much more comfortable starting my job on a critical care floor. Harding also prepares you well for the emotional and spiritual aspects of nursing. It is not uncommon to have patients in tough situations. Being able to meet a patient’s spiritual needs is often just as important, if not more so, as being able to meet their physical needs.

I get to serve God by serving my patients. Patients are not only enduring physical pain during their recovery but emotional fatigue. As a nurse, I get to spend my time with patients, encouraging them and supporting them through a very trying time. When patients feel anxious or discouraged, I have the opportunity to validate their feelings but also cheer them up. I also get the opportunity to pray with worried family members and share uplifting scriptures.

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Ethan Brown graduated in May 2018 and started working for Mayo Clinic in August 2018. He is an RN on the cardiac surgical and heart transplant intensive care unit.

I applied after hearing about the incredible work environment at Mayo Clinic from several fellow Harding graduates that had moved up there. There are so many opportunities for growth, and I knew this would be a great place to start my career.

My team cares for patients immediately after they have had open heart surgery. We help get them on the road to recovery after a life-changing operation. I find the interaction with family members of the patient to be the most rewarding part about the job. It gives me a chance to see into the life of the person I am caring for. I think Harding prepared me to be able to spread hope during times of uncertainty, and that is a beautiful skill to have in the ICU. Each day presents a new challenge, but I find the learning curve in the ICU to be the most challenging. There is so much to learn every day, and it is all very complex, but I am so excited to be able to learn these skills and be trained in the different specialties that Mayo has to offer.

Harding definitely helped me learn the nursing skills necessary to be at a world-renowned facility like Mayo Clinic. I also feel that Harding gave me the gift to be able to speak to other people from around the world that are seeking answers at Mayo Clinic. Through trips like Harding University in Florence and many mission opportunities, Harding gave me the ability to see God’s kingdom in a more spectacular way. This viewpoint has helped me numerous times to spread hope and healing to the patients I have interacted with from all different backgrounds, and I am especially thankful for that skill.

Nursing is a profession of service, and I find that I get to serve God each day I walk into the hospital. It is an honor to step into the lives of complete strangers who are in need and to be able to, hopefully, fulfill that need. I know that God brought us all here, and we will continue to work for his kingdom in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Kerry Day graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a minor in health missions. She began working as a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic in August 2018.

I originally wanted to work in Texas closer to home; however, that was not in the books for me. I was stressed about not having a job when my other peers did. Four of my peers had accepted jobs with Mayo Clinic, so I decided to give it a shot. Little did I know this was exactly what the Lord had planned for me. I am thankful every day for him leading me to Mayo!

As a registered nurse, we do it all. The most rewarding part of the job is when you have a tough patient that tells you what a difference you’ve made at the end of the day. It makes all of the struggles so worth it. On the flip side, the most challenging part is when patients change in status for the worse.

I’ve realized it’s all in the small things. Recently, I was giving a patient a shower, and I was washing their feet. This made me think about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. In everything I do, I try to be compassionate, and I’ve seen that people respond more to this approach.

I also feel like Harding has prepared me in terms of critical thinking. I ask a lot of questions, and I’ve learned that it’s the best thing I can do — the more I think and question, the safer I know I’ll be, and the better off the patient will be.

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Curtis Dupuis graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and began working at Mayo Clinic in August 2018. He is currently an RN on the surgical thoracic progressive care unit.

A fellow classmate inspired me to apply for a position, and the idea of working with my friends at the best hospital in the nation drew me in. I chose surgical thoracic because I plan to transfer to pediatrics in the future, and issues with the lungs are very common in that community.

My responsibilities include caring for the holistic needs of my patients and their families. As a nurse, I provide direct patient care, and I am the intermediary between my patient and other providers in and out of the hospital. I am serving God by fulfilling my calling to become a nurse. During each shift, I serve my patients by helping them perform activities of daily living, managing symptoms, providing comfort and being their advocate.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is to empower my patients to actively participate in interventions that accelerate their healing. Nothing makes me happier than to walk in and see my patients using their incentive spirometer [a medical device used to help patients improve their lung function] or requesting to take a walk in the hall. The most challenging part is to watch patients go through their hospitalization alone. Mayo Clinic can be an overwhelming place to take on by yourself, and I try to go out of my way to make patients that come here alone feel comfortable and included.

I use critical thinking skills in my job every day that I gained from challenging case studies, paperwork and competencies at Harding. Harding’s program taught critical care concepts that are not included at some other universities, and I feel that I had a leg up starting my job because of how well Harding prepared me. 

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Stephanie Jordan graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and began working at Mayo Clinic in August 2018. She is currently an orthopedic trauma nurse.

I planned to work in the Dallas area where I am from, but I wasn’t hearing much back from where I wanted to work. I decided to apply to Mayo Clinic because they had an opening in the field I was interested in, and I heard back immediately. It was definitely a good thing because I had never considered applying to a hospital as renowned as Mayo before.

On the orthopedic trauma floor, I work in an inpatient setting, which means patients are there anywhere from one day to multiple weeks. I am responsible for direct patient care, which covers a wide variety of things, from physiological needs to emotional, behavioral and spiritual needs.

The most challenging part of the job is not the work itself but the relocation. Moving far away from family and friends has been difficult, and I can’t drive five hours home for a weekend anymore like I could at Harding. And then there’s the winter — it’s cold and snowy here, and my little Kia can’t take the slippery roads well. That aside, I enjoy working directly with patients doing everything I can to make their stay comfortable, and I find it most rewarding when patients thank me for caring for them.

Harding’s nursing program is challenging, but it definitely did the trick. Not only did I feel well-prepared to face the physiological aspects, but I felt prepared to speak to patients past their diagnosis and focus on them and their immediate needs.

Everything I do, from the big things to the little, is serving God. By serving others, I’m able to serve him. I feel that every day he is giving me the chance to make a positive impact in the lives of my patients.

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Micayla Mobley graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and began working for Mayo Clinic in August 2018. She currently works on the thoracic and general surgery progressive care unit.

I was looking for a challenging work environment where I would have great opportunities to learn. When I applied for the position, I knew that a job that emphasized working with the lungs would make a great foundation for my career, since mostly everyone has a pair of lungs.

As a registered nurse, I take care of patients with treatments, medications and a lot of education. I love being able to be with my patients and help them find comfort on some of the hardest days of their lives.

I think the most challenging is taking on patients with multiple medical comorbidities [multiple chronic diseases or conditions]. This makes the case very complicated, and I have to really look at the details of their case to best understand how to take care of them — it’s a fun challenge that Harding prepared me to take on.

The teachers at Harding are incredibly knowledgeable. The amount we had to learn felt so overwhelming at the time, but so much of it is applicable to my job and helps me take the best care of my patients.

Helping to take care of someone and build someone up from rock bottom is, I think, one of the most Christ-like things you can do with your life. Devoting yourself to others is exactly what God calls us to do.

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A former perspective

Sarah Dill Blanshan graduated from Harding in May 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She worked at Mayo Clinic from 2006 to 2012. She is a family nurse practitioner by training but is currently a stay-at-home mom. She and her husband, Bob, live in Plainview, Minnesota, with their three children.

I happened to see a flyer for the Summer III program through Mayo Clinic, which is an internship experience between your junior and senior year of college. They pair you up with a registered nurse for 12 weeks, and you work side-by-side with that experienced nurse. I made a lot of friends through that and came to feel like the Midwest could be home. At the end of that program, they offered me a job

The most rewarding thing to me is the opportunity to help people. Sometimes it is in big ways, like literally saving their life in a crisis or coming to terms with a life-changing situation. Many other times it is in small ways, like helping them maintain dignity in an embarrassing situation or helping them understand their own diagnosis better. These little things can be huge to a patient.

Academically, Harding was tough and thorough. The program prepared you well for practice, but the real benefit of going through Harding was having the perspective of nursing being a ministry. The professors really made us think about how our care is an outflow of our faith and how we truly can touch lives through our work.
I think just about anybody can serve God and others in their work, but nursing is special because often times it is so raw and real. You are face to face with humanity every day, and you get to be right there with them, helping them along as they face the good and bad that life throws at them — it really is a privilege.

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