After graduating from the University of North Dakota with a degree in biology, Bemidji native Nicole Anne McKinnon thought she had her career path mapped out. She would leverage her biology degree to build a career in eye care. But a trip to Ethiopia brought her back home to Bemidji and opened her eyes to what she really wanted to do with her life – take care of others as a nurse.
“I was working at an eye clinic in Grand Forks and I had the opportunity to travel to Addis Abada in Ethiopia for a medical mission trip,” the 27-year-old Bemidji High School graduate said. “It was on this trip I discovered that nursing was what I wanted to do. I was able to help a lot of people on my trip, and I kept thinking that if I had more knowledge and skills, I could do even more for the people I had gotten to know.”
After returning home, McKinnon’s parents had a conversation with a Northwest Technical College staffer at a local recreation center. That conversation led her to NTC, where she found the knowledge and skills she needed in the college’s newly launched direct-to-RN track.
“It would be a great fit with my previous degree, as I would have all the other requirements finished and would just have the nursing-specific courses to complete,” she said.
NTC’s program allowed McKinnon to leverage the degree and experience she already had to become a registered nurse in just two more years of study, rather than another four.
Having completed NTC’s two-year associate’s degree program in Generic Track Nursing, McKinnon is now ready to pursue a career as a public health nurse.
“My travels confirmed for me that I really want to work in the public health field, and mainly with those who are underserved,” she says. “I really hope to get a job with Indian Health Services, either in Red Lake or Cass Lake. I hope that I will get the chance to help more people in our community.”
McKinnon says NTC’s program has prepared her for the next step in her nursing career.
“I really enjoyed all the hands-on experience. Not only in the lab setting, but also during my clinical time. I had the opportunity to learn a lot and experience many different nursing settings and situations.”
The smaller size of the program ensured she had the chance to build close relationships with both her classmates and her instructors.
“If I needed any extra help or clarification, if there was something I was unsure about, they were there to help,” she said. “The professional relationships I was able to build with my instructors have been wonderful. They have been able to help with networking, the job search and with exploring new opportunities in the nursing field.”
“I have greatly enjoyed my time at NTC,” McKinnon says. “It was a big change coming from the University of North Dakota to NTC, but the transition was smooth. I feel very confident to go out into my nursing career with how my instructors prepared me.”