Erica Southern


Briefly, tell us about your background leading to your current program of study?

I graduated from Princeton University in 2005 with a degree in sociology, not really knowing what I wanted to do with it.  After living in Tanzania for a year, I went through the process to become a child life specialist working for 2.5 years on a pediatric hematology/oncology/bone marrow transplant unit at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.  In this job, I consistently worked closely with nurses and other medical staff, and envied the medical knowledge and the role that nurses played in the care of the patient and family.  This sparked my interest in nursing, and I soon started taking my prerequisite classes. I returned back to my hometown, Seattle, and began working on a second bachelor’s degree.

How did you know you were ready to take this next step toward your educational goal?

My last job was very enjoyable, but was becoming less challenging.  I knew that I wanted to remain in the field of pediatric health care, and the role of the nurse really seemed to fit my strengths.  After I began taking my prerequisites, I discovered my interests in subjects, such as chemistry and anatomy. These subjects never appealed to me in the past.  Once I started down the path to nursing, I quickly realized that there was no going back for me.  I'm extremely happy with my decision so far.

Why this program, and why specifically at UW?

I grew up in Seattle, and hadn't lived there for nine years.  I knew I wanted to be back in the Northwest for school.  When I applied, I was completely unaware of UW's strong reputation in nursing.  Since I like UW and I grew up in its backyard, I knew that I would be happy there.  I was originally hoping to do an accelerated bachelor's program, but learned about UW's ABSN option too late to apply.  In retrospect, I'm extremely glad that I didn't apply and didn't choose that path.  The BSN path moves at a comfortable pace and allows me to supplement my classroom education with other opportunities.  I spent the summer working at a medical clinic in Tanzania, which wouldn't be possible if I had done an accelerated program that went through the summer.

What excites you most about your program?

I'm surrounded by impressive peers.  I can tell it's a great program when I look at my fellow classmates, and I would be comfortable with them taking care of me when I need a nurse.  The instructors also have contagious enthusiasm.  Their confidence in me and their breadth of knowledge is encouraging.

What has pleasantly surprised you about your experience?

My nursing cohort has a great mix of people.  I was impressed by the diversity in age, sex, work and life experience, educational background, and life situation.  It provides for a rich learning experience, and a vast knowledge bank.

How is your UW education preparing to meet your professional goals?

After completing one year of my BSN program, and already I feel competent in my nursing skills.  UW has provided me with a strong knowledge base and skill set, the ability to research the newest medical articles, a network of people to contact for information and support, the humility to ask for help when I need it, and the confidence to know that I will succeed as a nurse.

Tell us about your experience with mentors.

All of my clinical instructors so far have been fantastic mentors.  My pediatric clinical instructor has been quite an inspiration.  She has vast experience in nursing, and seems to have a solution for every problem that you throw at her.  She was challenging in clinical, and expected your best work, but did this in a way that was encouraging and enriching.  I'm sure that she will continue to be a mentor for me as I attempt to follow in her footsteps as a pediatric nurse.