Finlandia University has long been known for its nursing program. For senior Laura Kent, it has been as great as advertised.
“The best decision of my life was coming here for nursing,” she said while envisioning the three years she has completed at Finlandia. Those three years included a lot of challenges for the 23-year old student who is also working a full-time job that often includes night shifts at Aspirus Keweenaw in nearby Laurium. However, the promise of a meaningful career, and the incredible relationships she formed with classmates and professors are without a doubt worthwhile tradeoffs for the hard work, sweat and late night calls home to talk through the tough times.
“It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be,” Kent said. “We read every book cover to cover, and we have a plethora of them. The paperwork we do for pre-clinical and post-clinical is thorough. We have a lot of exams, journals and skills tests.”
All of that was only after she started the nursing program during her second year. Before that came the stresses of trying to get in. “You have to be the best just to get into the program,” she said. “You have to have a good GPA, do well in every pre-nursing class – including high grades in some seriously challenging classes. It pushes you. It makes you competitive. You need to be the best.”
All that training leads to success. Just look at Finlandia’s nursing class from 2016. Every graduate that sat for their N-CLEX exam passed on the first try, and are now employed in the seemingly always growing healthcare field.
Kent hopes to join those ranks after graduation in May. It’s going to be a meaningful end to a six-year higher education journey for the Iron Mountain, Michigan native. The journey started with her attending Wisconsin Lutheran College to play NCAA Division III soccer. After her second year she went through a dramatic shift in her vision of her future. She shied away from the environmental science degree she had been working toward. She debating mortuary science.
Eventually she realized her calling – nursing.
“That was the biggest moment of relief for me. It gave me a chance to buckle down.”
Laura Kent Found her calling
The difference was immediate, and it was noticeable to those around her.
“I’m not sure what happened, but one day it was there, I knew she had found her passion,” said Mary Ellen Kent, Laura’s mother. “I knew by her personality that she was made to be a nurse. She was always caring – a compassionate kind of person.”
It wasn’t just her mother who could see it. As you can see in the picture above, Laura was a nurse in training from a young age. “At that time I didn’t think anything of it, but her grandmother (who gave her that shirt) knew she would follow in my footsteps,” Mary Ellen said.
The healthcare field was always a familiar one for Laura. Not only was her mom a nurse, but her father was a physician’s assistant. “I started seeing it in Laura after she graduated from high school,” her mother said. “I was sure that was the direction she would go in, but she wasn’t ready yet.”
Her experience at Wisconsin Lutheran was a growing one. It led her to realize her calling, which included moving back north.
“When it came down to it, I wanted to be in the U.P. again,” she said. While she grew up in Iron Mountain, she had spent much of her childhood in the Copper Country visiting her cousins and grandparents who lived in Hancock.
“The Keweenaw air is so fresh. I love being around Lake Superior and seeing the northern lights. Many people take it for granted. To me, it just feels like complete relaxation being here.”
It also provides her the opportunity to snowboard at Mount Bohemia, which is widely considered to be one of the best ski resorts west of the Rocky Mountains.
“A bunch of us will go up there for full days of skiing,” she said. “You feel so free, like there’s not a worry in the world. All stresses get lost. I’ve been to other mountains, but Mount Bohemia provides an unforgettable experience. It’s like so many other things up here – it’s extreme.”
For anyone that’s lived in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, that’s never been in doubt. It’s part of what makes Finlandia graduates tough. It’s what brings out the sisu in them.
In Laura’s time here she’s also witnessed a noticeable change in the culture of the university.
“Campus has improved so much. It’s more lively. There’s a lot going on. It’s a more spirited environment now.” Physically it has improved as well, with the biology labs and fitness center improving dramatically. “The new fitness center has been a huge, huge improvement for me. The size and amount of free weights is great, and I love the views from the treadmills.”
Looking her final semester in the face has Kent both nervous and excited. “It’s bittersweet because you can feel the end is near,” she said.
It’s also a sentimental time for her mother, “it’s a combination of feelings – it’s a relief because you want your child to be happy and find something they’ll enjoy, and I’m happy for her because I know she’s going to be satisfied as a nurse. I’m so thankful she found what she wanted to do. You say you want them to be able to fly on their own – and she’s doing it. She found her way.”Aspirus Keweenaw, December 2016 Bridge, Laura Kent, Mary Ellen Kent, Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Mount Bohemia, Nursing, the Bridge