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Early struggles lead to nursing student's success

Hands-on clinical care and study abroad create positive balance and revived passion for health care

“I always knew I wanted to work in health care and couldn’t wait to be a nurse,” says Samantha Branham, recent graduate of UC’s College of Nursing. “But in my first two years of college I seriously had my doubts. Some of the biology and science courses were tough, and I saw no reason for learning some of this.”

UC nursing grad Samantha Branham poses with the white coat given to her by nursing school dean Greer Glazer.

Samantha Branham received her white coat from UC Nursing Dean Greer Glazer.

Branham hung in there, however, and began reviving her course load with new clinical rotations and a few electives outside of nursing to create a happy balance.

“Once I experienced hands-on care with real patients, I suddenly realized, ‘Oh, yes, this is what I really want to do,’” remembers Branham. “The intense science I had to learn in the first few years suddenly made sense, and it was much easier to continue on in my studies with a new perspective.”

Her renewed enthusiasm didn’t stop there. Through her passion for health care and love of travel, Branham looked into UC’s extensive opportunities to study abroad.

“My first experience abroad was life changing,” says Branham. “I went to Amsterdam through UC’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program to look at how they managed public health issues.”

Once I experienced hands-on care with real patients, I suddenly realized, ‘Oh, yes, this is what I really want to do.'

Samantha Branham 2020 graduate of UC's College of Nursing

UC nursing grad Samantha Branham sits on a bench in downtown Amsterdam.

Branham learned new and different public health management techniques while on a UC public health study abroad in Amsterdam.

Through the Maymester class called “Sex, Drugs and Public Health,” Branham observed how they regulate various drugs in the Netherlands and go so far as to provide safe and medically supervised environments for addicts while using their drugs.

From there, the class journeyed on to The Hague, known as the seat of the cabinet, the supreme court and the council of state in the Netherlands. Learning how they allocate their tax dollars to support a variety of public health services, Branham broadened her perspectives for how health care could be better implemented in the U.S. and around the world.

Branham added to her college experience by going on another study abroad, and this time she fulfilled her latent love for art history through a course in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) studying the “Black Body in European Art.”

Several UC students stand outside a government building in Amsterdam while on a study abroad trip.

Branham (front row center) enjoyed touring The Hague's government buildings and public health facilities.

“Life was good,” she says. “I was in my last year and looking forward to traveling to Paris and London to see this amazing artwork up close before graduating as a nurse — until the COVID-19 crisis hit.”

As the number of infected cases began to mount all over the world, Branham quickly realized that her trip to Europe would be canceled. “We were suddenly faced with moving out of our campus housing, transitioning to online classes for the remainder of the semester and saddened by the reality of not graduating with a commencement ceremony,” she adds.

UC nursing grad Samantha Branham stands outside McMicken Hall wearing her new nursing white coat with her mother.

As a UC nursing grad, Branham looks forward to enjoying a long career in nursing in her early home state of Massachusetts.

After Branham was reimbursed for the remainder of her housing costs and the study abroad expenses, she says she realized that life goes on. 

“[DAAP] Professor [Theresa] Leininger-Miller helped us convert what would have been live presentations in front of our favorite art in Paris and London museums to video presentations created with the museum online collections. She presented on 19th-century French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux's "Four Parts of the World Holding the Celestial Sphere. Her nursing hands-on clinical work became virtual simulations and online final exams. 

“Through this experience, I learned to broaden my perspectives for not only nursing, art and travel, but also how to navigate life itself — and that may be the best lesson of all.”


Featured image at top: 2020 UC nursing grad Samantha Branham took the opportunity to sit on UC's Mack lion statue in front of McMicken Hall. All photos/provided by Samantha Branham

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