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Nursing grad refuses to give up on her dreams

May 1, 2017 GMT

The first time that Terri Bruegman applied for nursing school was in 1993.

But after learning she was pregnant with her second child, nursing took a back seat to being a mom.

So, in 2003, she applied again while also applying for training and classes in radiology. She ultimately decided to take the radiology route.

But now, with four children and multiple degrees already to her credit, Bruegman is graduating with her nursing degree.

At 48, Bruegman is the oldest in her graduating class. She’s had to juggle family, work and school to arrive at this point.

“You just take one day at a time and make a lot of lists,” she said.

“When my youngest was still in high school, it was really challenging because I’d get off work and have to run to one of her events, then yet maybe have homework when I got home. There were a lot of late nights. School is hard. It’s hard. But you’ve just got to have determination.”

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While in school, Bruegman also has been working at the Norfolk Regional Center in nursing services.

“I help with schedules and payroll, and so I work with a bunch of nurses, but I’m not a nurse,” she said.

But Bruegman said everyone there has been great to work with and been accommodating to her class schedule.

“They worked with me, and my boss was so encouraging. We talk about stuff all the time. I’ll say, ‘Hey, I learned about this.’ And he’ll talk to me about it. It’s so cool to be around somebody who encourages you all the time,” Bruegman said.

Even so, the journey to graduation for Bruegman wasn’t an easy one. She especially had to manage her time between her kids and her schoolwork.

“I taught them if you want something, you’ve got to work for it. And they really, all the kids, they really value education because they watched me value mine,” she said. “Life gets busy and sometimes I feel like I haven’t been able to be at every single thing. And I appreciate that (my family and friends) supported me and believed in me and stuck by me.

“It was hard all the way through, I would say. But I just don’t have quit in me … I’m not stopping. I’m riding this bull all the way to the end. (Quitting) was never an option.”

The rewards of being a nurse have always made the journey worth it.

“Patients are my favorite part. It’s always been. You know, science interests me and I’m curious and I want to know why it is that something happens … but the patient’s always been my favorite part,” she said. “I love meeting all the different people I get to meet. And I even don’t mind it when they’re cranky because they’re not feeling good. So what can we do to make it better?”

After graduation, Bruegman plans to keep working at the regional center.

“I’m probably going to do behavioral health because that really interests me a lot. I wish had enough time to work in every field for a few years to really find my niche. I think it’s a journey for everybody,” she said.

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Mostly, Bruegman said she’s looking forward to being home in the evening with her husband, not having as many class commitments and having more time to talk with her children.

“You know one thing I’d like to do someday when I get closer to retirement and pay off all my student loans is I’d really like to do mission work. I’d like to go to another country. That would be something that I’d like to do,” Bruegman said.

Her advice for those who want to become a nurse or are working toward their degree?

“It’s a lot of work, but don’t doubt yourself. If you believe it, you can make it happen. And you know, caring for people fills your cup up. I don’t care who you are, it does. It does for me. … It gives you something money can’t give you, a good feeling. At the end of the day, you feel like you made a difference in someone’s life. What’s bigger than that?”