Interview with Julie Ziehm, Nursing School Graduate

by Cathy Sivak
Interview with Julie Ziehm, Nursing School Graduate

Julie Ziehm is a 2005 summa cum laude (4.0 GPA) graduate of the associate's degree registered nurse program at Chattanooga State Technical Community College in Tennessee.

She took a non-traditional route to the nursing profession. Julie earned a bachelor's of science-consumer science degree from the University of Wisconsin, then, inspired by nurses she encountered while hospitalized, she headed to nursing school.

First she attended Tennessee Technology Center in Crossville, Tenn., to earn a practical nurse diploma, then she continued on to Chattanooga State for her registered nurse associate's degree.

To help fund her RN education, Julie received a $500 per semester scholarship for the two year program from her former employer, Alexian Healthcare.

Currently working as a cardiac step-down nurse at a Chattanooga hospital, Julie plans to return to school to earn a Family Nurse Practitioner master's degree, specializing in geriatrics.

"Nursing is a great profession," Julie tells "To be successful, you must be in it to help others' and having a big heart helps, too."


Education Information & Advice

How did you decide to study nursing?

I had experience with helpful nurses during several hospitalizations, and decided I would like to work in the profession, especially after I volunteered as a nurses' aid.

How did you choose your nursing school?

It was close by, affordable and offers a transition program for students seeking to build on licensed practical nurse studies to become a registered nurse.

What did you like and dislike about your nursing education?

I love to learn, but the stress and overwhelming amount of information was a challenge. There were lots of long days, nights and tears.

Describe the 'hands-on' phases of your nursing education.

I had exposure to all areas of nursing, including weekly clinicals and lab practice, surgery, psychology, obstetrics and pediatrics.

How can prospective nursing students assess their skill and aptitude?

You must have critical thinking abilities, and also need to be competent in math and science. It's very important that you are able to learn and study at a rapid pace, yet still retain the information.

What factors should prospective students consider when choosing a school?

Location, cost and board certification are the three most important factors. If you plan to go on to graduate school, look into the grad school programs available at schools you are considering for undergrad work.

Would you change anything about your nursing education if you could?

Yes, I would have gotten a bachelor's of science in nursing earlier, and would already have a master's degree.

What can students applying to nursing programs do to increase their chances of being accepted?

Get a 4.0 GPA in high school, and take nursing school entrance exams, essays, and applications seriously.

What advice can you give to prospective nursing students?

It is the hardest thing you will ever do, but the most rewarding.


You & Your Career

Tell us about your new job.

I work 12-hour shifts, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on a cardiac step-down floor (telemetry) at Memorial Hospital in Chatanooga.

What steps did you take as a student to launch your nursing career?

I volunteered at a children's hospital, worked in billing at an orthopedic clinic, and took a personality/job matching test.

How did you land your first job?

I walked in and filled out an application, was called for an interview and hired on the spot the next day.

What was your first nursing shift like?

In one word, scary. I felt like I did not know what to do.

Newly starting your nursing career, what do you perceive as some of the top challenges in the profession?

Staffing, staffing, staffing!

What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?

I plan to attain a master's degree from Vanderbilt University-Family Nurse Practitioner, specializing in geriatrics.

Describe your dream job. Nightmare job?

My dream job is to work with the elderly as a Family Nurse Practitioner. A nightmare job would be working in a position without direct patient care.

Do you feel that is important for someone to be passionate about nursing in order to be successful?

Yes! Nursing is a great profession. To be successful, you must be in it to help others' and having a big heart helps, too.

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