She wants to travel to help impoverished mothers give birth. She wants to research alternate health care options and pursue grad school.
Kelsey Pruitt is a fount of ideas when it comes to her future. But whatever form that future takes, Pruitt, 22, wants to help people.
La Crosse is the perfect place to start for a new nurse leaving behind Viterbo University’s marquee nursing program, Pruitt said.
Undaunted by changes in the field and stricter requirements for nurses, Pruitt said Viterbo has prepared her to give care beyond just medical treatment.
“When you walk into a patient’s room, you don’t just look at them as the illness or the care plan,” Pruitt said. “You really focus on the total person. Mind, body and spirit.”
Commencement ceremonies will honor 378 Viterbo graduates at 2 p.m. today at the La Crosse Center.
Pruitt landed a job at Gundersen Health System in April but doesn’t know quite when she starts.
It was a relief to get a job, Pruitt said, adding that she lives in a community with ample job opportunities in health care.
About 20 percent of all jobs in La Crosse are health care-related, according to state data. Gundersen has hired more than 300 nurses in the past year.
“Nurses who are graduating this year in particular, in this area, who want to stay in this area for a while, are really fortunate,” Pruitt said. “I felt really, really, really fortunate.”
Both La Crosse hospitals — and Viterbo — have been affected by trends in the national health care industry that demand more training for nurses and give them more responsibilities.
New hires can no longer be content with a two-year degree, and must eventually complete a four-year degree. Higher-level nurses will soon need doctorates.
Viterbo is introducing its first doctorate in the fall, a four-year program for nurse practitioners.
Standards are increasing with the job’s responsibilities. As health care costs rise, nurses are caring for sicker patients, said Kathy Warner, Viterbo assistant professor of nursing.
“Things have always been changing rapidly in nursing,” Warner said. “That’s not a new concept.”
Pruitt embraces the higher standards for her chosen career. It’s better for patients, she said.
Pruitt started and ended her time at Viterbo as a nursing student, but still spent her academic journey trying to “fit into this nursing role,” Pruitt said.
She gained confidence each year. Now, she leaves Viterbo changed and inspired by the college’s values.
“Along the way it’s been a process of self-discovery,” Pruitt said. “The program is really intense.”
Pruitt was drawn to Viterbo’s Franciscan philosophy and got involved on campus. She worked with a campus social justice group and as a resident advisor and peer advisor.
She knows all five of the college’s core values by heart.
“Contemplation, hospitality, integrity, service and stewardship,” Pruitt said.
She volunteered for overnight shifts at the La Crosse Warming Center and helped with Place of Grace.
She fell in love with the idea of helping people in need and “really meeting them where they’re at,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt’s altruism was evident in class, and in the simulation labs at the nursing school, Warner said. Pruitt listened to patients.
“Her sense of caring comes across in her daily life,” Warner said, “with every interaction that you have.”
Pruitt received hands-on learning and real bed-side experiences from Viterbo, but she also learned nursing isn’t just a job.
“The entire role just really permeates your entire life,” Pruitt said.