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BS in Nursing
“I am by nature a people person. SUNY Brockport helped me channel that quality for the medical profession. I learned how to be a friend, a leader, a mediator, and the go-to-person you count on to listen and help solve problems.”
Throughout her undergraduate career in nursing at SUNY Brockport, Cassandra Hayes has experienced firsthand the complexity of illness, the joys of childbirth, and the process of death. Ultimately, she plans to go to graduate school to become a nurse practitioner.
Her decision to go into medicine was inspired by her favorite professor at the College, Dr. Joanne Stevens. “She's amazing. Her teaching style is full of energy, completely different from any other teacher I've had. She focuses not just on tests and books, but on the actual nursing experience. She made it so exciting—I loved coming to class!”
As a student in the Honors Program, Cassandra chose Dr. Stevens, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, to be her honors thesis advisor. “She has really helped me with my nursing skills, and has encouraged me to get my thesis published.” As part of her honors project, Cassandra did primary research on gamete (sperm and egg) donation as a treatment for infertility. “It's amazing to start out knowing absolutely nothing about a subject and become practically an expert in just a year.”
Cassandra is a self-described “nerd,” a tutor in chemistry, and a Residents Assistant (RA) for her dorm. “I'm very determined, so I'm always studying and working very hard. But I wanted to be an RA to help other students.” She also has been listed in Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and received The Annette Lamphier Rock Nursing Scholarship for excellence in nursing.
Cassandra's biggest challenges as a student nurse are her clinical rotations, where she works in various hospital departments. “Once I had to memorize all my patients' medications and dosages in an hour,” she says. “In college, if I forgot something on a test — no big deal. But if I forget something in my job, that's a real person's life in my hands. It really hit home to me one day—this isn't college anymore.”
In another instance, Cassandra had a mentally challenged patient who didn't understand what was happening to her. Cassandra says, “The patient was terrified. She yelled every time I touched her. I completely understood her position. All these people were coming in that she didn't know, and she was scared.” With the help of another nurse, Cassandra eventually won the patient's trust. “Every patient is different. You never know what kind of person you'll be dealing with next. You have to develop the tools to care for patients in any situation.”
Cassandra's most moving clinical experience to date was working on the maternity ward. “One of my goals is to have kids one day so the first time I saw a child being born, I was almost in tears. Seeing a baby being born is really is such a miracle. I could assist in a million childbirths and I don't think I'll ever get used to it.”
Cassandra says that seeing the process of birth and death firsthand has opened her to eyes to what's important in life. “Life is so unexpected. We take so many things for granted. Seeing what can happen in the hospital, you can be here one day and gone the next.” Like any medical professional, Cassandra has to come to terms with patients dying, but to her that doesn't have to mean shutting down. “To see a patient die and not be affected by it is not human. It's a process of bereavement and you just have to let yourself go through it. That's the beauty of it, in a way.”
The most important thing Cassandra learned in college is her own capacity for humanity and working with people. “The biggest challenge of nursing is working with so many different patients from so many different backgrounds usually under very stressful circumstances.” After she leaves Brockport and goes on to become a nurse practitioner, Cassandra will continue to develop the skills she learned at here — part medical expert, part psychologist, part leader and total advocate for her patients.