Sandy came to Carrington after seven years in the military. She joined the Idaho Air National Guard in 2008 as a traditional Guardsman, a so-called “weekend warrior”. Guardsman spend one weekend a month and two weeks a year on duty, so they have to work too. Sandy dabbled in real estate, but the military was her first real career.
“I was a traditional Guardsman out at Gowen Field for a year and I really fell in love with it. When my supervisor got deployed to the Middle East in 2009, he asked if I’d like to fill his position. So I served in an active duty, full-time capacity for five years. The military lifestyle is not for everybody, but I absolutely loved it. I loved it!”
There are lots of career options in the military, including nursing, but Sandy took a different path.
“I was in personnel in the 124th Maintenance squadron. The only medical experience I had prior to Carrington was as Medical Liaison for my squadron. I also taught combat self-aid care, basically life-saving measures in a combat scenario. I always wanted to be a nurse, but I also wanted to serve my country. Once I got into the military, I hit my stride and loved everything about it. Prior to having children, Chris and I really thought I’d do 20 years. So I put nursing on hold, got a degree in something else, and just be-bopped along until the boys came along!”
Fast forward to 2014; Sandy and her husband Chris (also an Air Force veteran) welcomed their first son, George. They decided the time was right for Sandy to leave her full-time position and go back to being a Guardsman part-time. Sandy served another year, during which time Henry was born.
“I’d served for seven years. Although I planned on doing a full 20, having two baby boys back-to-back brought Chris and I to the decision that it was time to get out of the service completely. So when my enlistment came up again in April 2015, I elected to take an Honorable Discharge…but I may go back in the future.”
After leaving her full-time position in 2014 and becoming a weekend warrior once again, Sandy needed to contribute to the family income. She decided to go to aesthetic school and went into medical aesthetics, joining M-SPA in Boise, where she still works today.
“Working in aesthetics really gave me a taste of what it would be like to give care to somebody. This experience also fed my desire to become a nurse. As I continue my nursing education and career, I also want to expand my aesthetic practice…in tandem with becoming an acute care nurse.”
Late in 2015, Sandy finally addressed her growing urge to go back to her first love…nursing.
“Even as a small child, I wanted to be a nurse. I’d planned to go into nursing after I did my 20, but the timeline changed with the boys. A little over a year ago I kept feeling this desire to go to nursing school; the time was right.”
Sandy’s Starting Point…
One of the reasons that Sandy chose to study Practical Nursing at Carrington is that the Boise campus participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program; a program that helps make school affordable for veterans. She also liked the idea of starting her career as a licensed practical nurse   and moving on from there.
Sandy also wanted a practical program, one that could get her working with patients sooner rather than later. She didn’t want to spend two years doing prerequisites before she could get involved with patients.
“I wanted a really hands-on program, and that’s what Carrington provides. You start your clinical hours two weeks into the program… all the way through to graduation. As you learn about something in the didactic setting, you’re out there practicing it in the real world – in long-term care facilities, hospitals, urgent care facilities and specialized clinics. Some students even had the chance to rotate through the infirmary at the prison.
Sandy sees a lot of parallels between serving in the military and nursing, and she loves getting to continue to be part of something that’s bigger than herself.
“Being in the military isn’t all about war, or defense or serving the country…it’s also about community and paying it forward, serving the greater good. Nursing really allows you to do that too – it really allows you to care for others and put other first. As a nurse I can go work at the VA and serve those that served, and that’s very important to me.”
A Word of Advice…
Sandy has some advice for students thinking about the Practical Nursing program;
“School isn’t easy, but it’s completely, totally worth it. Be mindful of your work/life balance. You’re going to have to cut back your working hours to ensure that you can devote enough time to your program. It was character building, it was intense, but it was worth it. It’s tough, but it’s a good tough! Would you want to be seen by a nurse that went through an easy program? The time and the effort are worth it.”
During their program, students often learn something about themselves and Sandy was no different.
“I learned that I didn’t need to be so rigid and type A! Quite frankly, I’m proud of myself that I’ve learned to be a little more flexible, and less black and white! That’s what surprised me – my instructors helped me become less rigid!”
One of the things that Sandy also suggests to new students is not to be shy when it comes to asking your instructors for help if you get stuck on something.
“If you don’t get a concept, that doesn’t mean you’re not meant to be a nurse! That just means that you need to reach out to your instructors and spend more time with them.”
Even though the program is intense, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. On top of having your instructors there every step of the way, your classmates are sharing the experience, and many will become good friends.
“The friendships, the bonding that takes place with your classmates is amazing! You’re all different ages, from different backgrounds, yet you just come together because you have this common goal. It’s nice to know that you have these people that are going through it at the same time.
There’s something really synchronistic and magical that takes place; you form these friendships that you really wouldn’t form otherwise. They become lifelong friendships; they’re my nearest and dearest – they’re on my Christmas card list now and they will be forever and that’s really special!”
While she was serving in the military, Sandy earned a bachelor’s degree in Social and Behavioral Studies. Now she’s completed the Practical Nursing program at Carrington, Sandy has her next steps planned out. She wants to grow her aesthetics practice, continue her nursing education and further her nursing career, maybe even heading back to the Air Force one day… but probably only as a weekend warrior this time!
“My short term plan is to get my license, then the place where I did my preceptorship has asked me to apply for a position. I’m going to take a couple of science classes, then it’s likely that I’ll go back to Carrington for their Nursing Bridge program  later in 2017. Sandy says she can’t wait to keep making a difference in her community with her education from Carrington!
 Individuals seeking to enter this career field may be subject to screenings such as, but not limited to, criminal background checks and drug/alcohol testing prior to externship, to attain occupational licensure/certification or employment and throughout their careers.
Carrington College prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program. Credential preparation varies by location.