Experience with grandparents influenced woman’s nursing career

With a continued shortage, nurses are about as highly recruited as star athletes.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 10:29 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A continued nursing shortage has upcoming nursing graduates as highly recruited as standout athletes.

Kirsten Johnson, RN is six months into her first job as a registered nurse. She works at Stormont Vail’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Topeka.

“I had no experience prior being with babies but I absolutely love doing what I do,” Kirsten said with a smile.

In fact, Kirsten’s inspiration for becoming a nurse came from the other end of the age spectrum - her grandparents. In particular, it was spending time with her grandfather, who battled heart issues.

“Coming to Stormont was where he went every single time, and being with those nurses and seeing the compassion they had for him (meant a lot),” she said. “That’s when I decided maybe this is what I want to do the rest of my life.”

Kirsten’s decision led her to Baker University’s School of Nursing, which is located on Stormont’s campus. She says the partnership gave her unique, hands-on opportunities - right in the middle of a pandemic.

“There’s a community here that came together during a very tough time and you got to see how in demand we are and how important nurses are at this time in our life,” she said.

The importance was highlighted when graduation rolled around. With a growing shortage in the field, Kirsten and her classmates soon realized they didn’t have to worry whether they’d find a job.

“I swear, at Baker, we had nursing recruiters there every single day!” she said. “I want to say I applied for six, seven jobs - and I got offers for all of them pretty quickly.”

While many hospitals are trying to tip the scales with signing bonuses, scholarship opportunities or flexible hours, Kirsten says she was swayed by the atmosphere she saw as a student.

“You got to see firsthand in Stormont how knowledgeable and compassionate these people are for their patients,” she said. “When I was a student, they were always willing to come help me, and willing to teach me.”

Kirsten’s goal now is to help the little ones at the start of their lives the same way nurses helped her grandfather at the end of his.

“Being with people in their most vulnerable state (is rewarding),” she said. “In the NICU, here, we get to see parents who didn’t expect their baby to be here. This is their prized possession we’re taking care of and they look at us for comfort, and I think that’s the most rewarding thing about being here.”

Stormont is among those with tuition reimbursement programs and, since they’re a non-profit organization, they’re part of federal student loan forgiveness programs. Their nursing services have had Magnet recognition since 2009.

Several reports suggest the U.S. will need 1.2 million new registered nurses by 2030 to address the current shortage.