Karoline Searing has spent her whole life adapting to whatever comes her way.
The Air Force veteran was born and raised in Brazil. She and her husband, who is still on active duty in the Air Force, were stationed in Guam for several years. Their young son was born there in July 2017.
While pregnant and living overseas, Searing applied to the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing. She started there in September 2018.
Her job in the Air Force had nothing to do with nursing or medicine — she worked in logistics as a material management specialist ordering aircraft parts and supplies.
“At the end of the day, I loved serving my country. It gave me life experience and skills that I believe made me who I am today. However, I knew I needed to follow my dream,” she remembers.
Drawn to the nursing profession
Searing always felt drawn to medicine, especially watching her biologist mother.
“I’ve always been interested in the sciences and nursing,” she says. “The idea of helping people during the toughest times of their life, when they need a helping hand and someone to talk to…I love that.”
However, after delivering her son, she knew she wanted to be a nurse.
During delivery, she had an emergency C-section after the team lost her son’s heartbeat. Searing credits her nurse with helping her safely deliver her son.
“When I think about nursing, I also think about her and the competent and caring nurse I want to be.”
They live in Las Vegas, where her husband is stationed. They have spent the last two years commuting back and forth. Fortunately, she says, her husband likes to drive.
Searing is going to have to adjust again soon: Her husband is going to be deployed overseas for a few months.
Nursing in the time of coronavirus
The threat of COVID-19 has demanded even more flexibility from Searing and other nursing students.
Nurses who in their final year of study are now trying to get their required hands-on clinical hours at a challenging time.
There is not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to go around for nurses and the students and finding appropriate opportunities under the supervision of a nurse is a challenge. There are currently more students than opportunities because until recently, the hospital was off-limits.
Returning to the hospital
Fortunately, Searing interviewed and was accepted into the Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program last summer.
Her hours there will count toward the requirement to become a licensed nurse. She started at the end of April and will complete her hours before her husband is deployed.
“I was nervous to get back into the clinical setting but very excited at the same time,” she says of starting work in a hospital.
“I feel better now that I know they have the appropriate PPE.”
Eventually, she will transition to full-time in the VA healthcare system.
Missing her UCI nursing cohorts
Living far away from her cohorts in addition to not being able to see patients until recently has not been easy for Searing.
“It’s tough. I miss my patients, the face-to-face contact, being with the nursing students,” she says. “It’s not the same. I want interaction.”
But, she stresses, it’s all manageable. She feels very lucky to have a husband who is still working while so many are facing uncertainty.
Above all, she believes this experience has been a good one despite the challenges.
“If you’re going into nursing, you must learn to be flexible. Tough times like these have taught us flexibility and adaptability. You never know what’s going to happen. As a future nurse, these are great skills to have.”