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Carey Martell

The Navy and Nursing: How I Combined Two Passions into One Career

Serving in the Navy and going to nursing school has been one of the hardest challenges I have ever undergone, but my military experience taught me many traits that have prepared me for nursing.

Herzing student Carey Martell shares a few tips she learned in the Navy that are helping her through nursing school.

Why did I join the Navy? I often get asked this question, and for the longest time, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I have learned throughout my five and a half years of serving exactly why I love doing what I do. It is an honor to be able to say I am serving in the military. I want to protect my friends and family and travel the world.

I come from a military family, and when I was growing up I was a Sea Cadet, which is a youth program for kids who are interested in the Navy or other military branches. Through the Navy, I’ve enjoyed some cool perks like traveling and also had the opportunity to meet so many people from different backgrounds across the world. My Navy family is my home away from home.

When I became a licensed practical nurse (LPN), I realized I wanted to combine both of my passions into one career. However, to be a nurse in the Navy, you need to have your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Even though I wasn’t thrilled about going back to school, I decided to enroll in Herzing’s LPN to BSN bridge program option.

I love the nursing program because there are so many interesting things to learn about the human body and the conditions and disorders that affect it – things that you never even knew were possible. It’s truly amazing how far science has come in understanding the body.

So how do these two careers work together?

Serving in the Navy and going to nursing school has been one of the hardest challenges I have ever undergone, but my military experience taught me many traits that have prepared me for nursing. Here are a few:

Discipline

Joining the Navy at age 18 really sculpted who I am today. It taught me how to be on my own, stay organized and have the self-discipline needed to keep myself on track.

I’m thankful that so many things are virtual right now because when I have a mission or training, I can take my schooling with me without worrying about falling behind in class. The only downside is that sometimes I do get stressed out or I must stay up a little later than I would like, but I know that this will ultimately be worth it in the long run. Nursing school is a commitment that takes up a lot of your time. No more going out every night or binge-watching another season on Netflix because you really do need to study. Try not to set unrealistic expectations for yourself and use a planner to help you stay on top of everything.

Caring

My sailors like to call me “doc.” Sometimes I feel like the mom in our group because I am always bringing extra food or water or basic first aid just in case we need it, even though we have an actual doctor on our team. Sometimes I feel like that annoying friend in the group always asking to help. I just can’t help it! I knew nursing was right for me because I love science and helping people. I enjoy helping my patients, making them comfortable and making them smile while they are under my care.

While a large portion of my career has been focused on caring for others, it’s also important to take care of yourself. Try not to be too hard on yourself and allow time during the week for self-care, whether that’s indulging in a favorite snack or going out to dinner, having a spa day or even taking a nap.

Confidence

One of the best tips I can give to anyone considering the military or nursing is to believe in yourself because both careers are challenging. Once you start to doubt yourself, the anxiety will kick in and could cause you to lose focus. Having a confident mindset can help keep the anxiety at bay, and things tend to work out a lot smoother when you’re not stressing over every little thing.

I know that nursing students stress over exams – trust me I’ve been there – but I never doubted myself, and that got me where I am today. I even passed my NCLEX to become an LPN on the minimum questions first try! I did the best I could to believe in myself because I knew I had the knowledge to pass. Even though I still get anxious over many different things, the Navy taught me to be confident in myself. I’ve learned to overcome the anxieties I face every day by trusting that I know what to do during any stressful experience, whether it’s related to the Navy, nursing or life in general.

Looking ahead, I’m excited to finish my BSN program, pass the NCLEX, and get commissioned as an officer so I can go full-time active duty in the Navy Nurse Corps. Both of my career paths are challenging, but anything worth having never comes easy!

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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