To be a nurse can mean a variety of different roles and responsibilities, trials and tribulations. However, a group of young women who grew up in Gunnison are up to the task. They’re working to become the next generation of nurses, or have already embarked upon the path.
Gunnison’s Ceara Smith has always enjoyed caring for people and animals alike. When she was younger and involved in 4-H, spending time with goats and other animals on Ann Bertschy’s farm north of the city, she thought she might like to be a veterinarian when she grew up.
It wasn't until recently that Smith considered caring for people as a career path. Within the past year, Smith has had the opportunity to work with seniors as well as children with special needs in Gunnison.
“It wasn't until this past year that my desire to become a nurse and do all the things I already love really made sense to me,” says Smith.
Smith recently completed the Nursing Aid program offered locally, and she hopes to pursue an associate’s degree in nursing at Colorado Mesa University-Montrose next fall. Smith, who attended Gunnison Valley School, still finds support and guidance from the teachers she grew up with.
“Those teachers there always taught us to pursue what our hearts most desire,” recalls Smith. “It’s motivating to have past teachers who still put effort into your success long after you've graduated.”
Another person who motivated and inspired Smith is her longtime best friend, Hannah Anderson, who is also attending nursing school. Like Smith, Anderson has always had a passion for animals as well as people.
“I have seen how much of a difference a good nurse can make and I want to be that kind of nurse,” says Anderson. “I want to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Anderson graduated from West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, with a degree in agriculture business and economics. She will be attending the same university to pursue her passion for medicine and people.
With hopes of becoming a traveling nurse, Anderson is excited to explore emergency department, labor and delivery, pediatrics and orthopedics.
“I am looking forward to making a real difference in someone’s life,” adds Anderson, who knows from having surgery herself how much of a difference a great nurse can make.
For another Gunnison native, Jordan Grosse, an interest in healthcare took shape after her grandfather fell ill and spent nearly three months in the intensive care unit.
“For whatever reason there was this kind of weird unspoken comfort being in the setting and being at my grandpa’s bedside,” says Grosse.
More than anything, the nurses provided an environment that felt like home — bringing Christmas gifts and Valentines, and in the end, the nursing staff felt like family.
After graduating from Gunnison High School, Grosse studied nursing at Concordia University, Austin, Texas. Part of her graduation requirement included a medical mission trip to South Africa.
“I got to scrub in on surgeries and C-sections, it was an incredible experience and obviously I fell in love with working over there,” she says.
It was in South Africa, in fact, where Grosse assisted in her first C-section. The baby didn't survive, and the language barriers between the doctors, nurses and mother made the experience even more difficult for everyone.
“They whisked the baby away, the mom never got to see him or hold him,” she recalls. “It’s heart shattering.”
From that experience, Grosse knew she wanted to work in the neonatal intensive care unit.
After graduation, Grosse was hired at Children’s Hospital in Denver, and that’s where she’s been for the past three and a half years.
“It’s hard some days because we put these kids through so much, but to see how strong and loving they can be is just incredible,” she says.
Becoming a nurse these days requires commitment to a rigorous academic schedule, long hours, and a deep dedication to caring for people.
“You never go home miserable after a day spent helping other human beings,” adds Smith.
(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)