Students in field

Finlandia Success: Lynnette Hokenson ‘15

August 1, 2017

This month’s Finlandia University alumni success story is focusing on Lynnette Hokenson – a graduate of Finlandia University’s nursing program. Hokenson is now working at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Yuma, Arizona. She serves in the Oncology and Renal Unit there. In this question-and-answer session, she talks about her experience as a nursing student and NCAA Division III athlete at Finlandia, and what life is like as a nurse in an area where most of her patients speak a language she isn’t overly familiar with.

MEET Lynnette Hokenson

  • Major: Nursing
  • Graduation Year: 2015
  • Hometown: Hancock, Michigan
  • Current Location: Yuma, Arizona
  • Job: Oncology and Renal Unit Nurse at Yuma Regional Medical Center
What drove you to move from the U.P. to Yuma, a town on the southern border of Arizona?

I wanted somewhere that was different from what I knew. After graduation, I worked at UP Health System – Portage, and that was so great, but I wanted more experience and I guess a bit of a culture shock…which is how I ended up here. It has been the best adventure of my life thus far. I have met so many interesting people and seen so many cool things. A lot of my patients and their families are Spanish-speaking only, which has been a big learning curve for me.

It sounds quite difficult to work with people when your native languages are different, how has that transition been?

By no means am I now fluent in Spanish, but I have learned enough to be able to effectively communicate and assess my patients. Patients on my floor are complex and I feel challenged. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but I feel like Finlandia set a good foundation for me to face those challenges.

The whole Mexican culture and family dynamic is different than it is in the U.P., which has been interesting to observe. There have been quite a few emotional moments that I’ve been able to be a part of. Most mornings when I leave work, I really feel like I have a high level of job satisfaction. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which a lot of people can’t say at 25 years old.

At FinnU we speak about finding your vocation – what do you think were key factors in you finding your calling?

One thing that jumps out to me is the servant leadership trip that I took after graduating. I think if I hadn’t gone to Tanzania, I wouldn’t have been able to move across the country by myself. Experiencing that tiny dose of a totally different world is hard to put into a few words, but it changed my life. It made me a lot more appreciative of what we have here in the states. René Johnson (Servant Leadership Director) guided us through the culture and language of the Tanzanian people, and (Assistant Professor of Nursing) Mark Miron stewarded us through the public hospital in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania. I saw things that were totally opposite from the basic nursing skills we were taught, which was horrifying at first. It’s important to point out that those people are doing the best with the resources they have. Their ability to adapt is inspiring. They welcomed us with open arms and as I look back, I am always amazed at the generosity we experienced there.

I remember before we left everyone saying that the trip would change our lives. When we first arrived in Tanzania, we were able to go on a safari. Afterward, I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t feel a change. It wasn’t until we got to spend time with the people in their homes and their schools, and workplaces that I felt it. That’s what made me different. It wasn’t seeing the breathtaking beauty of the jungle and plains— after all, I grew up in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It was the interactions with people that I probably will never see again.

you were also a student-athlete on the Lions volleyball team. How was it being an athlete while participating in such a tough academic program?

Most people know it is a challenge being in the nursing program. You have to be the ultra-student, and I did my best to take those challenges in stride. I wouldn’t trade my experience as an athlete and nursing student for anything. The support you get from everyone is real, including athletes from other sports, which was amazing. There is such a feeling of camaraderie. At Finlandia, I made friendships I will have for the rest of my life.

The faculty is also so knowledgeable and supportive. I maintain contact with some of my professors even now. It’s really like a small family. At times, it felt like school would never end. The clinical hours were intensive, but they challenged us. The learning experience was 100 percent worth it. People at Finlandia really care about me.

Now that you’re a working nurse, what do you plan to do next?

In January, I started working toward my doctorate as a nurse practitioner. It’s a big step, I know. Learning never stops in this field, and I figure it’s never too early to start. I wanted to pursue my NP degree because I’m wary of the direction healthcare is going. In a nurse practitioner role, I can have a little more of a direct influence over the care my patients receive.

Being a nurse entails a holistic perspective, which I am passionate about. The way that doctors are trained to look at things is very medical & scientific; they identify problems and treat them. As nurses, we’re trained to assess the patient as a whole: their family, their preferences, what kind of social supports they have, their learning capabilities, etc. We take that information and collaborate with other health professionals to find the best treatment plan for them. Collaboration is invaluable in the field of medicine, I’ve come to find. There is so much to learn from everyone, and all of us have a unique role to serve.

This article on 2015 alumna Lynnette Hokenson is part of a regularly produced series titled Finlandia Success. E-mail alumni@finlandia.edu to suggest alumni who might make a great feature in the next Finlandia Success story.

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