Graduate Ashley Bauer reflects on first year as nurse
But, little did she know the decision would help prepare her to face something far scarier – being a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With countless family members playing pivotal roles in health care, and always having an affinity for helping others, the Mayville High School graduate knew from an early age she wanted to be a nurse, and she knew that the best way for her to become one was to attend a smaller university.
Realizing that her first choice just wasn’t the right fit for her, she explored the possibility of switching and doing her entire nursing curriculum through Marian, believing that doing so would delay her ability to graduate in four years.
“Going from one college to another I didn’t know what to expect, but the process of transferring to Marian was very smooth,” she said. “I felt like I constantly had support, and that everyone I interacted with was as committed to having me graduate in four years as I was.”
With only three years at Marian ahead of her, Ashley chose to make each of them count. She quickly joined the Marian University Student Nurses Association, and from there became a member of its board and overseeing and managing its Student Nurses Ambassador Program.
Her time at Marian was also highlighted by finding her love for the ICU, an unexpected discovery made during her final clinical after years of wanting to work in pediatrics.
“Marian did a great job of preparing me to be a nurse, and I really appreciated that the professors were always right there for you,” she said. “There’s such a diverse collection of students in the Nursing program, and to be able to go from interacting with your peers, to talking with experienced nurses and people with health care industry backgrounds, was really valuable.”
But the moment she began working in June 2020 was also the moment COVID-19 emerged. It made for long days, stressful nights, and a constant sense of defeat working what became simply known as The COVID-19 Unit.
“I was only ever seeing patients with COVID-19, and we were basically just doing everything we could to keep them alive, but struggling to make them better,” she said. “We routinely had to tell people they could go on a ventilator or die, and at one point we had body bags at the ready because we were seeing so many deaths, so it didn’t take long to become burnt out.”
Despite constantly fighting the virus, and constantly fighting the sense of defeat, Ashley and her fellow nurses consistently made a difference in people’s lives. That includes 57-year-old Scott Douglas, who Ashley helped through a months-long battle with COVID-19, as detailed in this WISC-TV Madison article.
“My first memories of him were that he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t use his hands, and he couldn’t do much of anything, so knowing he’s doing so well now is a miracle,” Ashley said. “Most of the stories we have from over the past year are devastating or heartbreaking, but it’s no doubt rewarding when you hear and see stories like this, and especially when you’re involved.”
Ashley’s time in Madison is almost over, though. She recently accepted a position in the ER of St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac, and she’s looking forward to returning to the community that set her up to succeed through a time that no one could have ever seemingly been prepared for.
“I really credit the Nursing program and the Nursing faculty with helping me get to where I am today,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being back in Fond du Lac again, and I can’t wait to start experiencing new things and helping more people.”