As Liz Phelps opened her book bundle from CU College of Nursing, she began to cry. An unexpected gift from the College and the Alumni Association was included with her books – a stethoscope. “When I opened the stethoscope and saw the note I, to be honest, immediately started to cry. The fact that nurses who once stood in my shoes would be willing to lend a hand to their future colleagues made me proud of this profession that I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to enter into,” said Phelps.
The stethoscope and note symbolized her transition into the profession and summed up her journey to nursing.
That journey began years ago when Phelps’ grandmother -- a neonatal ICU nurse in Georgia -- told her, “You’re going to be a nurse one day.”
“When I opened the stethoscope and saw the note I, to be honest, immediately started to cry."
- Liz Phelps
Phelps fought it for a long time. Originally pursuing a psychology degree, she took a three-year break from school and began working in corporate medical supply sales for a company specializing in internal tube feeding for patients with a variety of conditions from gastrointestinal cancer, to nutrition issues, to chemotherapy and allergic disorders. She discovered a love for patient education. “When families were discharged from hospital I would set up the initial supplies, educate them about kangaroo pumps, troubleshoot and connect them with dieticians,” said Phelps.
After working in the field for a while, Phelps soon decided that the pull to healthcare was strong. She quit her job, took a 16-week course and became a certified nurse assistant (CNA), and worked at Denver Health conducting epilepsy monitoring and in surgical ICU. Sometimes handling acute patients under the age of 18, “That’s when I discovered a love for pediatrics. I thought I would hate it. But I really love children’s ability to rebound.”
Stethoscope for Students
While working, she went back to school and enrolled at the Community College of Denver. “I stumbled into the Integrated Nursing Pathway program.” Her biology professor noted her interest in nursing and told her about the INP program, which facilitates a unique pathway for students to earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in nursing.
Offered through three local community colleges (Community College of Aurora, The Community College of Denver and Red Rocks Community College Arvada), the program provides simultaneous application and admission to the local community college and CU College of Nursing. Upon admission, students take the first two semesters of classes at the community college and receive an associate degree. Then, they complete nursing studies at CU Nursing at the Anschutz Medical Campus where they earn their BSN after two years.
Phelps finished her associate degree a month ago and started June 1 at Anschutz where she is one of 58 INP students. She said excitedly, “I have a healthy nervousness. I’m finally in the program and am glad I chose the profession.” As a CNA, Phelps saw and worked with nurses who attained their degrees from a variety of institutions. “The nurses I have met who have come out of CU are incredibly prepared. Their soft skills are amazing. They appear more centered on the patient.”