“On my first day of training, I couldn’t do a single push-up,” says Major Caroline Hill who at age 18 joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Her introduction to the Corps was pure luck. While attending a college fair at the University of Kentucky, she met some ROTC students handing out free t-shirts and got talking. “I was intrigued by how service-minded they were and focused on giving back in a meaningful way.”
With little knowledge about ROTC or even the military, she was willing to give it a try. “I was pretty sure my family had a running bet as to when I would drop out,” says Hill.
Mother Pushed Her to Be Out of the Ordinary
Hill’s mother encouraged her daughter to do things out of the norm. As an engineer, her mom was used to being the lone female in a male-dominated field and pushed her daughter to do things that were not common. “My family’s minds were always open to the military. Like a lot of people though, we didn’t have any experience with the field. And our assumptions were not accurate,” recalls Hill.
Little did anyone know that she would make the military a career and calling. Through the course of years, Hill has discovered that there’s a tremendous amount of diversity in the military. “I was clearly wrong about my assumptions. In a lot of ways, it is very progressive.”
Air Force Made Career in Nursing Possible
By being willing to serve as an officer in the US Air Force after graduation, she received a full-ride nursing scholarship. Acceptance meant a commitment to serve in the military for the same number of years. “The Air Force has made it possible for me to pursue a career in nursing and midwifery,” says Hill. After graduation, Hill had two options Labor & Delivery (L & D) or Medical/Surgical. “I was drawn to women’s health, so I chose Labor and Delivery and fell in love with supporting women through birth.”
While stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, she was fortunate to encounter several midwives who shared with her the patient-focused philosophy of the profession, and she was hooked. In 2018, she then applied for advanced academic education through the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). She chose BSN to DNP, with the ability to earn her Master of Science degree specializing in midwifery along the way. One of two applicants accepted for graduate school in the country, Hill was limited to universities that would honor in-state tuition regardless of residency status. The University of Colorado College of Nursing fit the bill. “I can’t say enough great things about CU, Shannon Pirrie, and Denise Smith. The College of Nursing is super inclusive and understanding and made things work. My experience has been incredible.”
Clinical Sites Sets CU Apart
For Hill, one of the advantages of CU Nursing’s program was the number of available midwifery clinical sites. “It is super rare to have clinical sites in midwifery programs. Frequently, students must locate their own preceptors or clinical rotations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen requests from students in other midwifery programs across the country scrambling for a location. That’s not the case with CU.”
In 36 months, Hill will have earned her MS (May 2022) and her Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees. “It was a big lift, especially because I had my son in the middle of the program. The professors and staff were so supportive through the process of being a new mom. It was transformational.”
Hill acknowledges that she was fortunate not to have to worry about a paycheck and to be able to devote her time to schooling when most of her cohort had to work during the program. “The military pays you like a full-time worker, and the focus is on doing well in school.” Once Hill graduates with her DNP in August, she will be serving at an Air Force base in Nevada.