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Brianna Jenkins ‘23 (Nursing): Have Heart for Service, Will Travel

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A passion for helping others and a heart for service not only brought Brianna Jenkins ‘23 (Nursing) to UIndy, but also sent her across the globe to assist Ukrainian refugees in Poland over her spring break. 

“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” said Brianna. “I love helping people and making them feel better.”

UIndy provides Brianna with the ideal learning environment, with a hands-on nursing program, active Student Nurses Association (SNA), and convenient access to major hospitals in downtown Indianapolis. This access also allows Brianna to work at Franciscan Health in Indianapolis as a Patient Care Assistant.

With three years of UIndy experience under her belt, Brianna was ready to take her service global. 

Brianna first traveled to Ukraine in 2018, where she visited Kyiv, the country’s capital city, to participate in a conference. She felt an instant connection to the country. When Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, Brianna felt compelled to help those affected in any way she could. 

Brianna’s cousins are missionaries in Krakow, Poland, where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are currently seeking refuge. Brianna’s cousins opened their worship center to refugees and when Brianna and her mother learned of their plans, they arranged to travel to Krakow to help over UIndy’s Spring Break in mid-March.

“While we were there we cooked and cleaned. We spent most of our time organizing clothes and donations that were brought in and really just being there for anything the refugees needed. One day we put together approximately 300 adult and kid bags of snacks and juice and water and we went to the Krakow train station to pass them out to the new influx of refugees waiting at the train station.” 

Brianna also experienced the chaos of the train station first hand. 

“The most impactful memory from my trip is from the first night we were there. We went to the train station to pick up a family and take them back to the worship center. The train station had actually been closed all day, and had only just opened again a few hours before we got there. There were hundreds of people. Firefighters, Polish and U.S. troops, volunteers, and so many other people were there to help as best as they could in aiding the refugees.”

And as Brianna moves forward in her journey to become a nurse, she will carry the memories and perspectives she gained in Poland. 

“It was an incredible opportunity and experience to be able to help, which I am so grateful for. It’s awful the circumstances that led us to go, but I am so grateful that I was able to go and really see first hand the impact that the invasion is having on the Ukrainian people, as well as the Polish people. It is easy for us in America to look at the situation and feel sorrow or sadness for a minute but go back to our daily lives and forget about it. But these are real people who have either lost their homes, their money, or family members. They don’t know what the next day will bring.”

While nothing can prepare someone for the emotional weight of a refugee situation, Brianna felt that her UIndy career had prepared her to adapt to visiting a foreign country. Not only did her global awareness course increase her understanding of global issues and connections, but her Honors project faculty advisor, Dr. Cathy Miller, also helped Brianna to effectively practice self-care and learn to cope with stressful situations – lessons that also translate well in college and health care environments.

“I remember one of our first lectures when starting Nursing school, Dr. Miller really took the time to talk to us about stress-relief and self-care and the importance of it during school and work.”

The importance of stress-relief and self-care has been a major topic for discussion throughout the pandemic. As a student planning to enter the healthcare field, Brianna had a front-row seat to the challenges both current and future nurses were facing. Brianna’s passion for helping others pushed her to find a way to help those nurses. Her Honors project, Nursing Student Satisfaction with Clinical Experience during COVID-19, identified a critical need to conduct research to quantify the challenges that current nursing students’ clinical experiences presented by the pandemic.

“It is exciting to observe Brianna thrive as a future researcher with a passion for contributing data to improve clinical experiences and return them to a state of wellness should the pandemic return,” said Dr. Miller. “Her future holds endless possibilities because of her dedication and passion for knowledge.” 

Brianna’s hopeful personality and global awareness will certainly help her find success and bring change to future generations of nurses.