On the Journey to Becoming a Nurse

By Tiffany King

College of Coastal Georgia Senior Cameron Van Horn feels well-prepared to start her journey as a nurse. Van Horn will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May. The Hinesville native can’t believe that the time has come to graduate and step into her new career. It seems like yesterday she was a freshman working at the College’s Health Center, and now she will soon join one of the noblest professions.

Van Horn always knew that she wanted to work in the medical field but didn’t know where to start. Her father suggested that she enroll at Coastal Georgia for nursing then attend medical school. At first, she wanted to go to a big college some hours away, but fell in love with the College after touring the campus.

“I like it. It’s close to the beach, and I eventually liked that it was close to home. I got homesick really fast. Since it’s only an hour away, I could go home when I wanted,” she said. “It’s also tight knit. All my professors have been awesome—from freshman year till now. They’ve been easy to reach and supportive. I’ve heard from my friends that go to bigger schools that they don’t really get that.”

Van Horn worked at the Health Center for two years. She had an awesome experience, and interacting with the staff gave her insight into a career in nursing.

“It was cool to interact with them and talk to them about their nursing experience,” Van Horn said. “Working on campus helped me come out of my shell because I’m kind of shy. I got to interact with other students and teach them, which is important for nursing students because you need to know how to talk to people.”

Although she is unsure what field of nursing to pursue, she plans to start as a unit nurse on the med-surgical (med-surg) floor, where she will continue to hone her skills before becoming a nurse practitioner. Van Horn likes the hands-on aspect of nursing and caring for patients and their families.

“I’m going to be a unit nurse for a little while before going to school. I just want to make sure that in my next step, I’m doing what I want to do,” she said. “I don’t want to go to school to get another degree just to say that I have a degree. I want to be happy. I’ve seen a lot of nurses doing something they don’t like, and I don’t want to end up like that. I’m just going to take my time.”

Van Horn enjoyed her nursing classes, although very difficult, which is why it’s hard for her to choose which field to go into. Her favorites were the maternity class and the preceptorship—also known as her practicum—which helped her figure out her next steps after graduation. For her preceptorship, Van Horn was assigned to work at St. Joseph’s Candler Hospital in Savannah on the med-surg floor. She shadowed other nurses and eventually took over nursing duties, such as assessing patients, medicating patients, answering questions, and educating patients for discharge.

“It was kind of scary at first. We had 10 shifts, and by the tenth shift, I felt that I was more prepared than I was on the first shift,” Van Horn said. “That was one of my favorite classes because that was the first clinical where I could do 100 percent of the tasks. I felt like I was actually learning much more than my other clinicals where you just watched and did things every now and then.”

Maternity nurses advised Van Horn that med-surg is a great place to start to keep her skills fresh. Her preceptorship not only solidified where she wants to begin as a nurse but provided an employment opportunity. Van Horn has been hired by St. Joseph’s to work on the very floor she did her preceptorship.

“I’m really excited—nervous and excited,” she said about her new job. “I was going to wait to tell people, but they (her parents) already spilled the beans and told everybody. They’re excited, happy, and proud.”

Van Horn is a different person now compared to her freshman year. This is mostly due to her experience in the nursing program. She learned that she didn’t always have to be perfect but to also challenge and push herself.

“It’s really up to you to learn. I learned to be patient. I felt like I’ve always been kind, but it is important to be kind because you don’t know what others are going through,” she said. “I learned to be grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had, and I hope that I continue to learn.”

The College is a Special Place

Van Horn appreciates all the enjoyable experiences and opportunities she’s had at the College. For example, she attended an Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities (APCA) conference on behalf of the Health Center, where she saw performances and activities that could be brought to campus. Over the summer, she did an externship with the Southeast Georgia Health System and worked as a certified nursing assistant while shadowing a nurse.

“I thought that was cool because it added to the clinical experience since last spring we didn’t get to finish our clinicals because of COVID. I wouldn’t have known about that opportunity if I wasn’t in the nursing program,” she said.

She’s also enjoyed meeting different people, the friendships she’s developed, and the close proximity to the beach—which is one of her favorite places.

The College is a special place that Van Horn wishes more high school students knew about. She understands the allure of bigger, more popular colleges, but recognizes the value of small college.

“The College is close knit, and once you start getting into your study, you’re going to need your professors, and it helps to boost your confidence and support system,” she said. “That’s really great to have as a college student.”

Her advice to her peers is to keep going because it will all be worth it in the end.

“Keep your head up,” she said. “Cry if you need to, but make sure you get back and do your best.”

After graduation, Van Horn plans to take a short break before she starts studying for the National Council Licensure Examination. She’s also looking forward to spending more time with her family, and rediscovering her hobbies, such as playing tennis, and reading.