EagleHerald Staff Writer
MARINETTE—Sarah Pettit has wanted to be a nurse since she was 5 years old. This May, she will receive her Associates Degree in Nursing from UW-Green Bay Marinette Campus and has secured an externship with Aurora Medical Center—Bay Area. While many choose to leave the Marinette area to seek success, Pettit was able to go through school and enter her dream career from within the community that saw her grow up.
Pettit went to UWGB Marinette Campus for two years after high school to earn her associates degree, and also as a way to save some money. “It was a lot cheaper route than going to a four-year college right off the bat,” she said.
She did transfer to Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee briefly, but decided to come back after spending a semester there. “I realized I would be over $100,000 in debt and just couldn’t see doing that for a nursing degree,” she said.
When she returned, Pettit came back to UWGB Marinette Campus for a year to work on earning her prerequisites for the nursing program at Marinette’s other higher education institution, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) Marinette Campus. Throughout that time, she played basketball and volleyball for UWGB, and also acted as a student ambassador “I was able to transfer right away to NWTC, and all of my credits transferred, which was great because I didn’t need to take extra classes. All-in-all it worked out really well, and it saved a lot of hassle with student loans, which I’m not going to have because I went through the two schools,” she said.
“Because I wasn’t in the actual nursing program at UW-Marinette, it was kind of nice because I was able to pick classes that I was interested in. It gave me a base of learning how to juggle college classes and also being able to explore areas that I was interested in. That was different from NWTC; all the classes I’ve taken there thus far are straight nursing classes,” Pettit said.
When COVID-19 hit the U.S., Pettit realized that more nurses are needed to combat the virus and other illnesses like it in the future, which cemented her desire to become a nurse. “When I’ve seen and talked to the nurses at the hospital and seen how overworked they are; it’s not like you can just call in sick and we’ll just be short that day. You always need nurses, and the fact that they’ve worked so much extra, it shows that when a pandemic like this happens, they can’t work from home. They’re the ones out there at all times, and I had a lot more respect when I was listening to the nurses,” she said.
In her time at UWGB-Marinette Campus, Pettit said she had Jennifer Flatt, a former instructor at the college who recently became the new dean at NWTC, as an instructor. Flatt said the two of them came from UWGB-Marinette to NWTC at roughly the same time, which she said was particularly good for her transition into her new role. “I left the same time she did, and came to NWTC about three months before she did, and I remember seeing her in the hallways and just being so happy. You’re always happy to see former students, and there are some who when you see them you think, ‘Oh, yay! I get to interact with this person again!’ Sarah is definitely one of those people,” she said.
“Having Sarah as a student was fabulous. She was always very prepared, and she’s a great thinker. She contributed to conversations that pushed other students to learn, which is always what you’re looking for. I’m really excited about having Sarah as a nurse in our community because we need more people like her,” Flatt said.
Christine Walters, one of Pettit’s nursing instructors at NWTC, said, “Sarah is calm in her demeanor and approach to different situations. She never appears to be overwhelmed or caught off guard, and I feel that this is because she has planned appropriately for what may come. She asks appropriate questions and demonstrates critical thinking skills. She looks to understand the reasoning behind what is occurring or why certain actions are being taken. In conversation with Sarah you immediately see that she is kind, caring and listens to others needs. I have witnessed her be a person of support to her patients, as well as to her peers. She is respectful, level-headed, and motivated to be an excellent RN.”
Cindy Bailey, UWGB-Marinette Campus’ Executive Officer, said the two local schools are working together in what they are calling the Marinette Higher Education Coalition. She said this effort between the two schools is designed to help students work toward certain career paths and end up with a bachelor’s degree without having to leave the area, which is a pathway that would look remarkably similar to Pettit’s. “Students who know right from the get-go that a bachelor’s degree in nursing is the route that they want to go would start their first year at UWGB-Marinette Campus and take some of their basics and general courses. Years two and three would be at NWTC’s Marinette Campus getting their associate’s degree in nursing. Year four would be back at UWGB Marinette Campus finishing up their bachelor’s.”
Bailey said NWTC will still have all of the different nursing tracks that already exist at the school, but the partnered nursing track is one that Bailey homes more students consider as well. “A lot of students who want to get a bachelor’s in nursing will think they’d have to go to Oshkosh or Eau Claire and apply for their nursing programs, but through this Marinette nursing track, once you’re accepted into the track, there’s no additional applications to get into the program; you’re in. That’s a great guarantee to get them rolling,” she said.