by Traci Chapman – staff writer/photographer
For Mikaela Meeks, her years at Redlands Community College’s School of Nursing have transcended classes and clinicals – the experience has given her real-world leadership experience, as she moves toward the working world.
“This has been so different than when I got my first (bachelors) degree,” Meeks said. “The entire experience has been one of encouragement, of a lot of growth and just learning more than I ever really expected.”
That knowledge has come not only because of her classwork, but also through her experiences with Redlands’ nursing administration and instructors, she said. In what Meeks called a “climate of caring and support,” those individuals pushed her to move beyond what she’d known before and strive for more and better than she’d ever accomplished, she said.
That led Meeks to her position as RCC’s Student Nursing Association President, she said.
“I learned about the association the first semester, and I’m very much a Type A kind of person,” Meeks said. “I helped put on a fundraiser, and through that and all that’s happened since then, its taught me how to be thrown into a situation and make it work.”
Meeks’ involvement with SNA – and her outlook surrounding school activities – has changed a lot since she worked toward her bachelor’s degree, she said. Then, she was working and had no time for school activities; the program also was quite different in that she felt rather lost in the crowd – something she’s never experienced as part of RCC’s nursing program.
“I love the professors – they build a relationship with you,” Meeks said. “For example, I had a medical problem last semester, and they all worked with me, they cared about me, not just my school work, and it was very personalized to my situation.”
Those professors, her classroom and clinical studies and her SNA role have given her a depth of experience she didn’t expect, Meeks said.
“It really has helped set me up time management and communicating, and it’s helped me become very determined about what I need and want to do to succeed,” she said.
While Meeks credits Redlands for much of that determination, those who have taught and guided her during her time in the school’s nursing program said that determination has always been there – from the start, Redlands nursing administrators saw a drive and dedication they admired, Dean Rose Marie Smith said, it was something that came naturally.
“It’s easy to be encouraged and excited about future nurses when you work with someone like Mikaela – I don’t know that she realizes just how good she already is, and how far she can go because she’s so open to learning and guidance,” Smith said.
“I’ve just always had a good work ethic, I’ve always known what I needed to do to get to the next level,” Meeks said.
That meant putting herself through school while pursuing a bachelor’s degree working as a bartender; after finishing with BA in science with a psychology major, Meeks was ready for that next level – nursing school. Redlands’ approach made choosing the eastern Canadian County community college an easy decision, she said.
“Redlands was revamping their program – they were like, ‘you’re the type of student we really want,’” Meeks said. “That really made me feel wanted, it felt good they wanted me here.”
That choice was made in August 2016; Meeks will graduate this May, and she’s never regretted, she said.
Wanting to work as a surgical nurse after that graduation, Meeks said her favorite courses at Redlands involved science.
“Complex was my favorite nursing class – I love the schedule of the program, the people, the instructors, and I love that it keeps me interested and on my toes,” Meeks said. “I enjoy learning things and looking back at how hard I worked to get where I am.
“The nursing program is definitely something that pushes you to work and something I am proud of completing,” she said.
SNA has made that process even better – and it has allowed Meeks to give of herself, not only to her fellow students, but to the community at large. An example was last November’s Winter Wonderland fundraiser, which not only helps fund the school’s pinning ceremony, but also included a toy and donation drive. “As we have been serving in our community, our nursing students have seen many needs and have a desire to help our neighbors,” Meeks said at that time. “While we appreciate the opportunity to raise funds to support the pinning ceremony that is so special to nursing graduates, we are pleased that our toy and donation drive will be able to benefit Helping Hands.”
That kind of outlook was a great part of Meeks’ success – and the success Smith and other Redlands administrators and faculty saw on the senior’s horizon.
“Nursing is always about giving, about heart, and Mikaela definitely has that in abundance,” the dean said. “I’m so proud of all she’s done and how she’s looking forward to the next thing – and we can’t wait to see what that is.”