Religion Major to Pre-Nursing Student
by Anne Gray Thornburg, C'17
My name is Anne Gray Thornburg, and I am a senior religion major at Sewanee. Entering into my junior year, I did not have any plans for after graduation, and I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and how I could possibly use my religion major. In November, after talking with a friend from home, I realized that I wanted to be a nurse. It hit me that nursing was a career I had always been passionate about, but had forgotten for a little while. I had been interested in being a NICU nurse, as I love babies, and thankfully I realized this passion could be part of my career. Helping and working with children has always been something that I have enjoyed, and nursing provides this and much more. I want to be able to help people, especially babies and children who are sick or injured, and I really enjoy learning about the human body and how it works and what happens when it isn’t functioning properly. Nursing combines these passions, but I did not truly realize that being a nurse was what I wanted to do until late in my college process. After doing some research on various nursing programs, I decided that this was going to be my next step. I have realized now that I want to eventually be a nurse practitioner, either specializing as a Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, or NICU NP. Depending on what specialty I choose, I will either complete an accelerated BSN program and then later get an MSN or DNP, or I will complete an accelerated master’s right away.
As I was ending the first semester of my junior year, I needed to find a way to make nursing school a real possibility, even though I had waited so late. This came with a lot of stress and worrying about completing prerequisites and having the time to be adequately prepared, while also graduating on time and still completing my religion major. I met with Dr. Summers, who helped answer every question I had and helped me design a plan for how I can complete all of the prerequisites needed for various nursing programs. She went through the classes offered at Sewanee with me and we discussed a strenuous, but manageable timeline for my path towards becoming a nurse. As Vanderbilt and Sewanee have a strong relationship within the pre-health field, I received a lot of information about their NP bridge program and others like it. Dr. Summers helped me start taking some prerequisite classes during the following summer. She designed an independent study for me to complete Biology 133, which is needed for Microbiology, one of the classes required for nursing school. This was very helpful in speeding up the process of completing my prerequisites. I was able to take both Biology 133 and Nutrition during the summer, and I am so glad that I did. While taking classes in the summer, I was also given the opportunity to volunteer at a free medical clinic in Beersheba Springs to gain some experience in the medical field. I was able to help with basic tasks such as taking blood pressure and preparing EKGs. This real life watching and learning encouraged my excitement for nursing and allowed me to experience some of what I will hopefully be doing in the future. I enjoyed both taking classes and volunteering at the clinic, and they were both beneficial experiences. While at Sewanee this summer, I also volunteered on the University Farm (photos below), where I learned more about organic produce and animal care. I really enjoyed connecting what I was learning in Nutrition with my experiences on the farm. Seeing where food comes from and how organic and local food positively affects our bodies was definitely a highlight.
Now, I am beginning my senior year, and I have a plan to complete most of the other prerequisites. I will be working closely with Dr. Summers throughout the year to discuss nursing programs and benefits, while also monitoring my classes and continuing on this new path. I am taking Microbiology this fall and will hopefully be taking Anatomy, Chemistry, and Psychology in the spring. I have learned that different nursing programs require different prerequisite classes, so once I decide where I am applying, I can finalize which classes I need to take. I will complete the rest of the classes I need after graduation, the summer before I enter a nursing program. As of right now, I am still deciding whether or not I want to get a BSN and then later a DNP or go straight to MSN after graduation. There are definite pros and cons for each path, so my only problem is deciding which one will work best for my desired specialty and/or what I hope to accomplish later in life. I am hoping to continue volunteering at different clinics around Sewanee and maybe even Nashville to gain even more hands on experience. I am continuing to research nurse and nurse practitioner programs around the country and am deciding what specialties interest me the most. While this process is more rushed and hectic than I would have liked, it is definitely feasible and exciting. I am lucky to have resources such as Dr. Summers and Sewanee’s pre-health program, as well as connections with various doctors, nurses, and administrators that work throughout Nashville in different specialties. Through a combination of research, organization, and hard work, my career in nursing is getting closer, and I am excited to see where the journey takes me.