Reaching for a Dream

Reaching for a Dream

Scholarships Allow Mother of Four to Pursue Nursing Education

By Emily Rust

When Valerie Bower gave birth to her second son, something was off.

“I had a really horrible delivery,” she said.

Her newborn son had underdeveloped lungs and spent a week in the neonatal intensive-care unit at CHI Health St. Elizabeth in Lincoln, Neb. Always by her side were caring nurses, people she would remember for years to come.

At the time, Bower was a customer service representative at a call center. Her only exposure to the health care industry was working with supplemental insurance. She had gone to college to study elementary education, but left to pursue a job, not knowing exactly what she wanted to do.

Still searching for her dream career, she often remembered her time at St. Elizabeth’s and the nurses beside her, and finally, she realized her calling in life.

“The care that I got and that he got, that’s what has inspired me to become a nurse,”Bower said.

But her goals would have to wait. Now, eight months pregnant with her fourth son, Bower and her growing family were moving out of her hometown of Lincoln to Hastings, Neb., where her husband had been called to serve as a pastor of the First Christian Church of Hastings.

She’d often thought of Creighton when considering nursing school. But Omaha was far away, and as a mother of four, she needed to be close to her family. Worried about pursuing her nursing career, Bower soon found the answer she was looking for.

“When I found out that Creighton had a campus at Mary Lanning, I was over the moon. Creighton is THE nursing school; it’s got a great reputation,” Bower said. “It was a very happy accident — further reinforcement that nursing is my calling.”

In the fall of 2014, Bower began the traditional four-year nursing program at Creighton University College of Nursing-Mary Lanning Campus. Since 1986, Creighton has operated a nursing program out of Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings.

Bower wouldn’t be in nursing school if it hadn’t been for the scholarships she received. With the Les and Phyllis Lawless Annual Scholarship, and the EducationQuest Foundation Annual Scholarship, she’s able to focus on school. Before the scholarships, she discussed with her husband possibly picking up a part-time job, adding another challenge for the mother of four.

“I see that as pulling out the bottom piece of the Jenga game,” Bower said.

Now, her family has learned to adjust to mom’s college schedule. Her boys, aged 11, 10, 8 and 3, are for the most part supportive — only annoyed when it affects their free time. But, they’re kids, she says.

“When there are nights where I have to work on homework at the dining room table, they continue with life around me,” Bower said of her family.

As an active member of her church and a caring mother, Bower is grateful to have Creighton nearby.

“It’s really nice to have the option to go to school here, get a degree, but stay at home,” Bower said.

After graduation, Bower hopes to start her nursing career at Mary Lanning. She’s leaning toward working in either neonatal or OB-GYN.

“What excites me is caring for people when they’re most vulnerable and being that nurse for them, the way they were for me and my kid,” Bower said.