Why I Became a Nurse
Elizabeth Arth ’19 made a career turn, inspired by her son’s care after an injury.
Four years ago, Elizabeth Arth ’19 stayed by her son’s side as he recovered from a severe spinal-cord injury at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison. Inspired by the depth of care for Henry, she left the hospital with a career-altering mission: to provide the same experience for other families. In May, she was among the first graduates of the UW School of Nursing’s new, one-year accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN). It’s one of the school’s several efforts to deal with the ongoing shortage of nurses and an option for those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field. Arth, 43, did 11 months of intense study and five clinical rotations at hospitals and clinics in the Madison area.
You were working as a childbirth educator and grade-school teacher. What made you become a nurse?
In 2015, Henry spent 17 days healing and relearning to walk at American Family Children’s Hospital. I was always interested in health science, but there was a moment in the hospital where I looked at what the nurses were doing and how they were caring for my son and our family. So I decided to go to nursing school and began taking prerequisites almost immediately. Fortunately, Henry is fully recovered.
What was it like to return to college for the degree?
I really enjoyed the small classes. There were just 32 of us, so we were able to participate, ask more questions, and really get to know the faculty. The first semester, taking pathophysiology and pharmacology, I was studying all the time. I liked being with other second-degree students. The two-week clinical rotation after winter break was almost like being a nurse — it gave me input about what to expect from the workload.
Would you recommend the ABSN program to others looking for a new career?
Yes, but it takes work. When you decide to make a life change, you think it’s going to take a long time, but here I am, graduating just one year after I began the course.
My last clinical rotation was on the same floor at American Family where I watched Henry struggle to recover four years ago — it felt like a return home, in a sense! I’ll never forget watching the physical therapists help him regain the ability to walk or the nurses help our whole family deal with a difficult situation. That’s why I became a nurse, and that’s what I hope to do for my patients at the Veterans Hospital in Madison.
Published in the Winter 2019 issue