Making connections, friendships, memories, and following her dreams of becoming a nurse.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Meet Hannah, a Viterbo nursing student from the small community of Berlin, in East Central Wisconsin. Her hometown is a quaint population of just over 5,500 people, so Hannah searched for a university and campus setting that created a comfortable space to learn and grow while she connected with new friends and searched for adventures and opportunities. "I wanted to be more than a number to my professors," she shares. 

Hannah Mertens
Hannah Mertens

Hannah, who will graduate in 2025, considers all the things that make Viterbo her home-away-from-home. She finds campus life convenient, where everything she needs is right here. She can also easily participate in a variety of activities, such as Weekends at VU where one might find Hannah and friends making tie blankets or spending a night on the ski slopes at Mt. La Crosse. “I enjoy attending Viterbo events,” Hannah says. “It makes it easy to meet people and connect over common interests.”

She also gives back to community agencies with Service Saturdays – a monthly event that brings groups of students from all of the area campuses, employees, and community members together to work on special projects at a wide variety of area non-profit organizations where more hands make light work. Thursday Night Trivia in the cafeteria (caf) with friends is a favorite. “It’s a great way to let go of the worries of academics for an hour and have a great time,” Hannah says.

Hannah finds that in the nursing program, there is a unique connection between the people in the same cohort. “It’s easy to find a study buddy or group that meshes well with study habits and personality,” she explains. “As a cohort, I feel like we are all rooting for each other. I can’t imagine an overly competitive nursing program that encourages student comparison. Our environment at Viterbo is uplifting and supportive.

Hannah is thrilled that Viterbo’s nursing program offers clinical experiences earlier than other schools. “My first clinical experience was with just five other students and our professor,” she shares. “We could connect with one another and receive immediate feedback while practicing some of the more daunting nursing skills like SBAR communication and independent patient assessment in a comfortable environment.”

Her favorite course so far is pathophysiology. Although It was a lot of information she had to learn in a short time, Hannah finds herself drawing on all of the knowledge in her other nursing courses. “It was super cool to learn the specifics of how our bodies respond when things aren’t perfect,” Hannah shares. “It’s a miracle that things don’t go wrong more often with the complexity of our bodies!”

Hannah belongs to the 
Viterbo Student Nurses Association (VSNA), and the combination of professional and social events are a great way to connect with friends and mentors. “They bring in a speaker each month who is affiliated with nursing or medicine,” says Hannah. “Alumni, professors, and current students present on different topics, from internships to their nursing pathway, or capstone experiences. Most recently, a person living with ALS spoke about their experience with a terminal illness.”

Hannah adds that VSNA also hosts social events and a mentoring program where third and fourth-year nursing students are paired with first or second-year students. “It helps students make connections and learn how to succeed.”

She looks forward to participating in a senior year clinical capstone experience in Alaska, where students experience the rewards and challenges of providing health care in a remote community. 

Hannah always knew she wanted to work in the medical field and she realized she wanted to be more hands-on with care. Nursing seemed the logical choice because she could still make a positive impact in others’ lives. “For me, the thought of being in someone’s world on the hardest or most important day of their life is astounding,” she says. She hopes to work in critical care, or ICU and some day become a flight nurse. “Caring for a person in a crucial, possibly life-altering time, is one of the many reasons that I find nursing to be completely entrancing.”