With her new Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in hand, Jasmin Cole ’13 has taken a leap of faith, moving to Chicago this summer hoping to land a job with Rush University Medical Center or another top hospital. It’s a big step for Cole, but one for which she’s ready. She’s already survived a rigorous nursing curriculum after a difficult transition to college.
Cole learned quickly that academic preparation is only part of what makes the transition to college a success. An only child, Cole felt homesick being apart from her mother Jackie Bridgewaters, a single parent who lives in Louisville, Ky. And the coursework her first year was tough; “Human Biology: Anatomy and Physiology” proved especially challenging. “I think I cried every day,” Cole recalls. “That class was really hard. But my mom said flunking out was not an option. So I passed the class.”
A top student in high school, Cole was interested in a medical career but says it was a family tragedy her junior year that proved pivotal in her decision to become a nurse. While visiting a cousin who was hospitalized, Cole discovered that a classmate’s mother worked as a nurse on the same floor.
“I think to take my mind off what was happening with my cousin (who later died), my friend’s mom sat me at the nurse’s station,” Cole says. “She showed me what her job entailed and talked about how much she loved being a nurse. I really liked everything I saw.”
In seventh grade, Cole was selected for the Whitney M. YOUNG Scholars Program, which prepares academically motivated students for high school graduation and the transition to college. In high school, Cole worked with a YOUNG-appointed counselor to find a small college or university with admission directly to the nursing program. Illinois Wesleyan was on the short list.
During her first visit to campus, a March snowstorm rendered Cole’s mother to declare, “You can’t go here. We don’t do snow.” Cole, however, was sold on IWU’s small size and friendliness, particularly the “family within a family” atmosphere of the nursing program.
That family atmosphere and supportive environment helped Cole to combat loneliness. Her closest college friends were other nursing majors. “We cried together, we laughed together, we did everything together,” she says. “I did have a lot of friends outside of nursing, but nobody else really understands what we went through.”
Nurturing others comes naturally to Cole, who explains, “I’m an only child. I had to make friends early on with other kids.” She hopes to utilize her gregarious personality to care for people in a mental health unit where “nursing is more about showing the patient that somebody cares,” says Cole. “In the ‘Nursing Leadership and Management’ class, our goal is ‘How can we help you (the patient) while you are here to make sure when you get out you have the steps you need to cope or take care of yourself?’ It takes a lot of communication to help people take the responsibility for themselves.”
As her four years at Wesleyan were drawing to a close this spring, Cole found she was ready for the rites of passage, both celebratory and serious. One such milestone is a ceremony in April where seniors receive their School of Nursing pins. Ready to reward her daughter with carnations and a big hug, Cole’s mother was among the parents in the audience beaming with pride at this culmination of a long journey.
For Cole, a new journey will begin after she moves through one last big gate, passing the NCLEX-RN (National Council License Exam) that will allow her to practice as a registered nurse.
In some ways, she realizes, her next move will be just as difficult as her first year at IWU, as she launches her career while adjusting to a new city and making new friends. But in this move, she has discovered a newfound confidence. “I’m just ready to take the next step of my life and see what happens.”