Kali Donnelly: Learning Nursing on the Job
ALMA — As a high school student in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Kali Donnelly decided she wanted to grow up and become a nurse. Since coming to Alma College, Donnelly hasn’t looked back — and she has gained a plethora of interesting experiences that will help in her future career.
Through the Posey Global Leadership Fellows Program, Donnelly won a scholarship to serve as a volunteer nurse in Sierra Leone. Donnelly’s required clinicals have her working two days a week at MyMichigan Medical Center hospital in Alma. Outside the nursing program, she has made friends and mentors through numerous extracurricular involvements.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in Alma. The small, tight-knit community makes it easy to form friendships and relationships with faculty members. The campus community is very inclusive and friendly. But the college doesn’t go easy on you, either — you work hard, and that’s why I’m going to graduate from here well-prepared to be a nurse,” said Donnelly, a junior student.
Donnelly works as a first-year resident advisor and is a member of the college Spirit Squad. She said that her extracurricular activities serve as a way for her to “pay it forward” — making younger students feel comfortable when they first arrive to campus, in a way that she felt when she initially came to Alma.
“It’s exciting to see students come in, feeling a little nervous, and then they start to make friends and build connections,” Donnelly said. “You go through their first failed tests, their sports teams’ success, everything high and low, and help them navigate through it all. We look out for each other, and I know I’m not the same person I was when I came here two years ago.”
One way in which Donnelly has changed is that she now has much, much more experience as a nurse. She’s currently working two days a week on the medical surgical and psychiatric floors of Gratiot County’s only hospital. Next term, she will be working in the pediatric and intensive care units of the hospital. Donnelly’s clinical work, she says, is the highlight of every week.
“The field experience is hugely beneficial for my future career and I really enjoy it in the moment. Not many undergrads can say that they know exactly what they want to do and have the skills to do it, but I do,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly said the Alma College nursing faculty are “tough, but fair,” and have always been supportive when called upon to help in difficult situations.
“There have been times where I’ve had to come to a faculty member’s office and tell them, ‘I just don’t understand,’ and they sat with me until I understood whatever I needed,” she said.
One of the highlights of Donnelly’s college career have been two trips to the Makankisa Child Care Center in Yele, Sierra Leone, where she volunteered as a nurse through the “P-Global” program. P-Global allows 30 to 40 students every year the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world to pursue an internship, volunteer opportunity or research experience based on their passions, free of charge.
“It was extremely interesting from a cultural perspective to see the differences in the way they do things there to how we do them here,” Donnelly said “For example, because I didn’t speak the same language, I had to look for non-verbal cues, like noticing where someone who is in pain is holding themselves, more than I ever have before.
“I think that having that cultural perspective will make me a better nurse, and it wouldn’t have happened without P-Global.”