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Paying Compassion Forward

 posted on Thursday, April 13, 2017 in  Alumni Profiles

Kim Miller traveled the world with the U.S. Navy, earned a management degree, worked in human resources, and held a real estate license. A career in nursing wasn’t on her radar.

Then a serious health scare in the early 2000s put things in a different light. The Waverly native saw the care and attention her nurses and nurse aides gave her when she was in the hospital. It was eye-opening.

“Their actions demonstrated such a natural, heartfelt level of compassion and care,” she said. “I decided someday I would look to give back.”

Miller’s quest to give back began in 2010, when she moved back to Iowa from Wisconsin and trained to become a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA). Miller started working at Bartels Lutheran Retirement Community in Waverly and enrolled in the Practical Nursing program at Hawkeye Community College.

“I’m a non-traditional student and needed flexibility, cost-effective learning, and an organization that understood and would give credit for my previous experience and education,” she said. Hawkeye fit the bill.

Miller had a lot of support during her education. She received a grant from the Waverly Philanthropic Education Organization and scholarships through her employer. She connected with her peers in the nursing program, and they built a strong support network.

Her instructors added to that network, going beyond simply presenting new information.

“I felt that each of my instructors truly cared,” she said. “Nursing school is a huge undertaking and I found myself making friendships that will last a lifetime, both with classmates and instructors.”

Part of Miller’s clinical training happened in the Van Gerpen Patient Simulator Lab, an experience she calls “amazing.”

“So many situations can ‘come to life’ and allow the student the opportunity to handle a difficult health-related situation in a safe environment,” Miller said. “You get to troubleshoot what you did right and what you could have done better without the fear or embarrassment or risk to anyone. It’s a very unique, high-tech, interactive means to deepen understanding.”

Miller completed the Practical Nursing program and continued working at Bartels, this time as an LPN. She completed the Associate Degree Nursing program at Hawkeye in December 2016.

“My coworkers and residents are more like a family as we work through the rigors of day-to-day life together,” she said. “I am living my best life ever.”