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CVTC nursing graduate Jessica Brickner and her grandmother, Jean Brickner, share a big hug after the commencement ceremony Dec. 16. Jean said she always wanted Jessica to follow in her footsteps and become a nurse. (Submitted photos)

Double duty: CVTC grad also EMT trainer

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Jessica Brickner was not out of her element at all as the student speaker at the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) River Falls campus graduation Dec. 16 at Meyer Middle School.

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Brickner has had a dual role in the healthcare field for the past few years. While she has been a student in the CVTC Nursing Associate Degree program, she’s also been active as a health educator.

She is a member of the Ellsworth Area Ambulance Service as a volunteer EMT and was elected as the service’s training coordinator. In that capacity, she speaks to groups frequently, teaching refresher courses to fellow EMTs.

“I’ve been at it four years last August,” she said of her work as an EMT. “I did a ride-a-long and loved it!”

Of the 39 graduates receiving degrees at the CVTC River Falls campus at the end of the fall term, 32 were nursing students, with the others completing Administrative Professional, Accounting, Business Management and Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement programs. In addition, four students received certificates of General Education Development (GED).

At the Eau Claire campus, 373 graduated in 33 different programs, with 70 nursing graduates being the largest program.

Brickner had long focused on a healthcare career. She started at a university with some required courses, but with difficulty getting into a highly competitive nursing program, switched majors and earned a degree in health promotion with an emphasis on community health. But she didn’t give up the dream of becoming a nurse. She entered the CVTC Nursing program and her background in health education made her a natural to become a peer tutor for her fellow students.

“I have numerous memories of working with students as they overcame struggles with a subject matter,” Brickner said. “Seeing the ‘light bulb come on’ and hearing students say, ‘I finally get it!’ are true reminders of why I like tutoring and being an educator/mentor.”

Brickner also works as an EMS instructor at the Oakdale (Minn.) office of Regions Hospital. She sees a future for herself in nursing education after she passes her boards to become an RN.

“My experience tutoring and helping other students has definitely given me encouragement and a sense of reassurance that a future as a nursing educator would likely be a good fit,” Brickner said. She hopes to work soon in a hospital setting, but adds, “long term, I would like to get my master’s degree in nursing and become an instructor of future nursing students.”

Brickner urged her fellow graduates to go beyond their professions.

“Demonstrate your strengths and strive to be the outstanding individual you have become,” she said. “When you are satisfied, challenge yourself a little more. Become a member of the community in which you live. Use what you have learned at CVTC to better the world around you.”

One of the current nursing instructors, Jennifer Buekema, was the faculty speaker at the ceremony.

“Many of you want to continue your education in your chosen field, and for that I say, ‘good for you.’ If I had given up whenever something was hard, well then I would not be standing here, and I know many of you graduates can say the same thing,” Buekema said.

The guest speaker was Deb Callow, the director of nursing services at Spring Valley Senior Living and Health Care Campus, who told a story to encourage graduates to listen to the stories of others. She told how her first patient as a nurse was an elderly lady, for whom she was to perform a head-to-toe assessment.

“I noticed numbers tattooed on her inner wrists,” Callow said. “I questioned her about them and she told me her story, a story of a young Jewish girl in Nazi Germany. Her parents took her to France and then sent her with nuns to relatives she never met in New York City. She never saw her parents again.

“I learned that day to cherish the life experiences of others and learn from them. I can never imagine what she went through and I will never experience in my life what she did. But what I really learned that day was to listen to the story others have to share, and learn from them,” Callow said.

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