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Nursing student is not afraid to follow the road before her
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Photo: Gary Krambeck
Andrea Laermans has changed careers and is seeking a nursing degree at Black Hawk College.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Black Hawk College nursing student Andrea Laermans talks with a student in the college's tutoring center, where she works part time.
MOLINE -- Perched on the edge of her seat, Andrea Laermans glanced at her watch to gauge how much time she had before she had to take flight to her next commitment.

Time is of the essence for the Black Hawk College third-level nursing student, who divides her time between a husband and home, a tutoring job, leading the college's student nursing organization and, of course, studying.

"Learning how to manage my time has been a huge challenge," Ms. Laermans said. "Sometimes I do feel like I'm going backwards. Then I will have a rewarding patient, or a student I've tutored will come up and share that they have gotten a B and I think, 'Oh, yeah, this is why I'm doing this.' "

Her life is a far cry from what she thought it would be after graduating from Moline High School in 1996. After high school, she headed for Chicago, attending the University of Illinois at Chicago and graduating with a bachelor's degree in marketing. After working at a bank in Atlanta, she moved to Colorado, where she did outside sales.

Needing a change of pace, she took a job dispatching and managing the business side of a limousine company. To add to her income, she picked up a job working for a property management company.

Living in the mountains had its perks, she said. Yet, she always felt something was missing.

"Nursing was always in the back of my mind," Ms. Laermans said. "My brother was in an accident 11 years ago and was in a coma for 44 days. He had some of the most amazing nurses. Doctors don't always have the time to stop and explain everything that is happening. The nurses are there all the time and can help families one on one."

When her husband, a Type I diabetic, experienced complications, Ms. Laermans said she felt she needed to know more about the disease and how to manage it. She started taking prerequisite classes for nursing. After traveling around three counties going from work to school to home and considering costs, she decided Colorado wasn't the place to earn her registered nursing degree.

Looking into various nursing programs as well as their locations, she decided to move back to the Quad-Cities and attend BHC. The couple made the move in the winter of 2010, and she started nursing classes that fall. She doesn't regret her choice, although being a non-traditional student has its challenges.

"It took me about a year to start processing things more quickly," she said. "This is much harder than getting my bachelor's degree. I don't know if I was just a sponge then and I retained things … but now I am studying my tail off for the same grades. My husband is encouraging and will ask, 'Aren't you going to study?' when I'm trying to spend time with him. "

There are many tradeoffs, she said. Her husband is getting a lot of practice at cooking. Cleaning is another. "About once a month I'll put the clothes away," she said with a laugh.

Another tradeoff was financial. Her husband gave up his full-time job as a roofer and now only works part time, and she works part time tutoring other students at the college.

Despite the tradeoffs, Ms. Laermans said the rewards, such as helping other students reach their potential and the opportunities for personal growth, are many.

She became involved with the Nursing Student Association and led a clothing drive that netted 2,000 pounds of clothes. When the school held its annual Hawk Hustle, she and other club members took blood pressures and checked oxygen levels with pulse oximeters.

"It was not only fun to do, but I was also able to apply what I am learning to real-life situations," she said.

Application of what she is learning is her long-term goal. Ms. Laermans said she may be in school "forever," but her goal is to be a nurse practitioner and return to Colorado.

"The more I get exposed to, the more I think I can do," she said. "There is no reason to make up my mind so early on in my education. … I'm not going to settle on my RN and call it done. There are so many possibilities in this profession and in life.

"Who knows where the road will take me?"





Changing the dream

Who: Andrea Laermans, non-traditional student who has changed careers and is pursuing a nursing degree

Quote: "I'm not going to settle on my RN and call it done. There are so many possibilities in this profession and in life."



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