From childhood neighbors to UC nurses
Five from the same Mason, Ohio, street grew up to choose UC and the nursing profession
On a double cul-de-sac in a Cincinnati suburb, five neighbors spent their childhood together trick-or-treating at Halloween, watching fireworks on July 4th, playing, picnicking and partying. In all that time, none predicted they would choose the same university and the same profession.
“It’s interesting to think that so many of us in such close proximity to each other all ended up doing the same thing, and that’s never something we talked about,” says Romie Suer, ’21. She is one of four in the group of five neighbors who have graduated from UC with a bachelor’s in nursing. The fifth, Suer’s brother Carson, will graduate in 2024.
Despite so many shared experiences in their youth, no mutual moments or obvious influences inspired these former neighbors to become nurses. (We aren’t convinced there isn’t something in the water.) Each came to the profession for unique reasons and found their own way at UC. Though they are no longer tied together by their proximity to each other, they now share a deeper connection in what they do.
Get to know these four alumni and one student. Learn why they chose the nursing profession, what drew them to UC College of Nursing and how it prepared them for what they are doing now.
Shared sidewalks, different paths
Tripp Elson, BSN ’20
Lee “Tripp” Elson III, ’20, the first of the five neighbors to attend UC, felt called to the nursing profession after he grew up caring for his grandmother who lived with him. He helped dress her, made sure she ate at mealtime, organized her medicines and medical appointments, and took her on outings. When it came time to choose a nursing school, he looked at a few southern schools, but none matched UC College of Nursing’s level of support.
“I always thought UC was going to be too close to home,” he says. “But UC has the co-op program and a lot of supplemental instruction, tutors and advisors."
Elson says nursing school was “a long, tough four years,” but he frequently met with undergraduate advisors and faculty along the way to ensure his success in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
“I fully took advantage of almost every supplemental instruction and having teachers who were always willing to work with me was something I truly admired,” he says. “I had great professors who were always willing to meet after class or take extra time to say, ‘Hey, are you OK?’”
After he graduated and passed the nursing licensure exam, Elson went straight to work on UC Medical Center’s med-surg floor in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says UC prepared him to manage the uncertainty and increased patient load.
“I think the way the college’s academic schedule is set up, you always have one more class than you can handle, and you have to prioritize,” he says. “You don’t realize it until you get into practice and you have one more patient than you think you can handle. You relate that back to school and you realize you can do this.”
The pandemic took a toll on Elson’s mental health, but it also made him more resilient.
“COVID gave me the understanding that, if you have a bad day, come back the next day, because life always offers you that next opportunity called tomorrow, and that’s something that I’ve really held on to,” he says.
In January, Elson took a new position in the hospital’s emergency department to work in critical care — an area he wants to explore.
Sophia Wells, BSN ’21
Sophia (pronounced soph-eye-a) Wells grew up the daughter of two engineers, so the medical field felt foreign to her when she started to research her options.
“I knew I liked science and working with people, but I didn’t know if I wanted to be a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist or something else.”
The field became much more familiar, however, when she contracted tuberculosis, likely during a medical mission trip, and spent her entire first semester at UC in the hospital. She finished the school year as a biology major, but decided to switch to nursing when she witnessed nurses’ critical role in health care.
“Nurses are basically the glue of the health care system. You work with everybody and you’re the messenger between everyone — everyone,” Wells says. “You’re the first person to notice things about a patient because you see them the most, so it’s a very impactful role.”
The year Wells wanted to enter the BSN program as a second-year student, UC’s main campus did not have open seats, so she earned an associate degree in nursing at UC Blue Ash and went on to complete her bachelor’s through UC’s RN to BSN online program. Wells appreciated the small class sizes at UC Blue Ash and that she could later work full time as a nurse while earning her BSN online.
Since graduating with her associate degree in 2020, Wells has worked at UC Medical Center on the postpartum/antepartum unit. She likes the “girl power” vibe of the job and that she gets to care for newborns. In the future, she says she could go back to school to become a neonatal nurse practitioner and work in a neonatal ICU.
Romie Suer, BSN ’21
Romie Suer did not know what she wanted to study in school until it came time to apply.
“I knew that I really liked science. I knew I didn’t want to do research, and I knew I didn’t want to sit at a desk,” she says. Nursing checked those boxes. She also babysat and volunteered with a youth group in high school, so she was “very inclined to take care of people.”
Like Elson, Suer looked to schools outside of Ohio for a degree. But she chose UC because applicants are directly admitted to the nursing major their first year, rather than having to apply in their second year, as some schools require. While in UC’s program, Suer says her diverse clinical experiences helped her hone in on the setting she liked most and prepared her to confidently enter the workforce.
“We had clinicals in a lot of different areas — school nursing, pediatrics, labor and delivery, psychiatric nursing, not to mention multiple rotations of med-surg — so I definitely felt well prepared,” she says.
After a year spent traveling, she started working in 2022 in UCMC’s surgical trauma ICU and likes the variety of patients she sees. UCMC’s size and structure also offers room for career exploration.
“There are a lot of learning opportunities, which comes from it being a big hospital, and the fact that it’s a teaching hospital,” she says.
Anthony Palermo, BSN ’23
Anthony Palermo felt drawn to the medical field and thought about becoming a physician, but changed course when he shadowed his mother, Amy Palermo, who went through UC’s accelerated master’s program and works as a nurse practitioner.
“I found out doctors only see patients for like five minutes a day and I wanted to see my patients for longer than that,” Anthony Palermo says.
He considered other nursing schools, but after visiting UC’s campus and the College of Nursing, he was hooked. He liked the campus culture, that UC directly admits applicants to the nursing major, and that there are multiple nearby hospitals. And it didn’t hurt that his mom was a Bearcat nurse.
Palermo says it helped to have neighbors in the program; he was able to borrow textbooks and get advice and insight on what to expect from professors and courses. But faculty and clinical instructors played a central part in shaping his experience. They encouraged him to seek out unique patient cases during clinicals and his time in the co-op program, a year-long paid opportunity that pairs fourth-year students one-on-one with preceptors at Cincinnati Children’s and UCMC. And when Palermo underwent knee surgery early in his final semester, followed by a months-long recovery that kept him from clinical work, his professors found clinical slots whenever possible so he could make up those hours and graduate on time.
Palermo plans to work in UCMC’s cardiovascular ICU. He says UC provided him with a solid foundation he can build on as he trains in his new role. He hopes, eventually, to return to school to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
Carson Suer, BSN ’24
From UC to UC Health and beyond, lasting bonds
While they no longer share the same streets, the former neighbors share a deeper connection in their chosen profession and path forward. All the neighbors now work at UCMC, and on the rare occasions they find themselves together as a group, the childhood friends trade stories about life as a nurse and nursing student.
“Sometimes it’s dangerous because we risk ostracizing the rest of the group (of neighbors),” Carson Suer says. “It’s HESI talk and NCLEX talk and nurse-speak when you’re just speaking in gibberish.”
Wells adds, “The funny thing with nurses is that we’re one of few professions that like to talk about work. … As nurses you get a thrill and it’s a mutual bonding experience.”
Beyond shared conversation, the nursing field has provided rewarding opportunities. Wells says, “You might be part of someone’s best or worst days and that’s a very rewarding thing.”
Suer entered the program in fall 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of UC’s classes were scheduled online and acclimating to nursing’s academic demands proved difficult, even for Suer who excelled in high school and earned UC’s merit-based Cincinnatus Scholarship. His first couple exams did not go well, and that is when having a sister in the program made a big difference.
“I just remember Romie saying, ‘Carson, you’re going to have to learn to 1., brush it off and 2., that it’s not that big of a deal — it’s going to be OK.’”
Soon, Suer settled into the program and says his classmates and clinical experiences have been some of his favorite parts. For now, he works part time at UCMC as a patient transporter. He is interested in working in pediatrics or the ICU after he graduates, but more so hopes to finish his time at UC having learned as much as he can before he enters the nursing field.
Carson Suer shared his sister Romie Suer’s interest in science and caring for others. He also admits she played a role in his decision to become a nurse: “I think I would have landed on it anyway, but it definitely would not have been such an easy choice,” he says.
Along with a direct-admission offer to the nursing program, Carson Suer chose UC because of its distance from his family — away, but not too far away — and because his sister and many friends already were students there.