HELENA – The Carroll College campus is quiet, now that the Thanksgiving Holiday is underway, as students get a well-earned break from class. That includes nursing student Kim Johnson.
Johnson is in her junior year, working to balance a demanding course of study toward the goal of a degree while making time for her family as well.
Two years ago, Johnson left her 20-year career as a court reporter to attend the Carroll College nursing program.
At the time she said, “So instead of putting on a suit and a suit coat, I’m putting on Converse tennis shoes and blue jeans. It’s rather nice.”
Now Johnson is feeling the strain of a demanding workload.
“Now I’m really into the nitty gritty. And I’m also at the point where I just want it to be completed. But I love the challenge.”
Time, specifically not enough time plays a big role in her life.
“The time definitely manages me. Typically right now I put in about 80 hours a week between school, classes and homework. And I want to say I spent almost 20 hours studying for one exam,” she said. “My daughters and I sit at the kitchen table and do homework together at night. What I found this semester is with a higher credit load, is that I’m unable to stay on top of my 9-year-old daughter’s homework assignments so sometimes she falls behind and that’s a struggle for me. Trying to balance keeping my grades up here at Carroll and helping my 9-year-old keeping her grades up.”
For Johnson, time spent at school also means time away from family.
“I do feel I miss some events in my children’s lives because I’m, I have to be focused on this program. This is not a program where you can take a class sort of halfway. You have to give it your all to make it through this program.”
So what keeps her going? Faith in a job she feels she’s been called to do.
“In fact I think it was a higher calling that called me into the nursing field. So prayer at night, sometimes two in the morning, again at four in the morning, it just depends on the stress load.”
Johnson also depends on the social support of friends to keep her motivated and inspired.
“It’s getting harder, and harder,” she added.
80 hours a week of classes, homework and study doesn’t leave time for much else.
That’s why support from friends and fellow nontraditional student, Kelly Clark is so important to Johnson.
“Kelly and I, if one of us is having a rough time and we feel we just can’t go on any more, we’re just struggling so much, then the other one pulls us along, we face the same struggles with family issues, children, a home, a spouse, so we’re able to encourage one another.”
Johnson also pays that support forward to her fellow students.
“We might go out to coffee together and talk about boy problems or the stress that they’re facing in this program so I help them study for exams and some of the students have said, ‘You know, I couldn’t do this program without you by my side to help me study and to keep me going as well.’”
There are many firsts in a career like nursing, including giving your first flu shot. Even though MTN reporter Dennis Carlson hates getting shots, he volunteered to be on the receiving end of that first flu shot during a recent clinic at Carroll.
And it was a breeze, he didn’t feel a thing.
There are life-firsts for Johnson as well. She recently became a grandmother. When she talks about that, she positively beams.
“Our eldest daughter and her husband have just had our first grandchild, and they live in Bozeman, so that’s another pull away from my school work, I want to be with my grandson.”
Despite the pressure, Johnson still has her eyes set on her goal.
“But I do feel blessed. I really feel called to be a nurse. I am so thankful for this process. And I’m really hoping I can impact someone when I become a nurse, in a positive way.”
After graduation, Johnson wants to be a hospice care nurse.