At 18 years old, Erica Yang knew she didn’t want a desk job. She was unsure what that would mean for her future career, but by the time she began volunteering at hospitals near her hometown of Dallas, her path became clear: She wanted to be a nurse.
“I got to see the connections that nurses made with their patients and saw how they truly knew their patients as people first,” said Yang, now a fourth-year student majoring in nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
As she looks ahead to graduation in May, it’s clear she made a good choice. She was selected from a pool of 200 applicants for the 2022 Heartfelt Dreams Foundation Nursing Scholarship, which is given annually to a nursing student focusing on cardiac care.
Yang has spent the past two summers doing just that, first in the cardiothoracic step-down unit at Duke University Hospitals in North Carolina and more recently in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
“During those internships, I have gotten to work with some of the most brilliant people in healthcare and taken care of some really complex patients that helped me expand my clinical knowledge as well as my interprofessional skills,” she said.
We caught up with Yang, who balances her academic life with commitments as a co-captain of the varsity swimming and diving team, to learn more about her experiences at CWRU.
Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
1. What interested you in CWRU?
CWRU’s nursing program stood out to me for its early start and the amount of clinical hours at top hospitals included in the program. I would also be part of the first [Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing] class that would get to attend classes in the newly built Health Education Campus so that was exciting as well.
2. Have you had any special moments or memories to come from your nursing experiences?
One of the most special memories I have is meeting my clinical instructor Bonnie. Bonnie was my instructor for my pediatrics clinical and our entire group became very close just because of how amazing of a mentor and genuine person Bonnie is. I am still close with Bonnie and ask her for life advice every now and then and our clinical group has gotten together for dinners and such just to catch up since our rotation ended almost a year and a half ago.
3. What are your future career goals?
I’m hoping to work as a critical care nurse for a few years before going back to school. As of right now, in the future I hope to utilize my advanced practice degree, work in nursing education or maybe even leadership. There are endless opportunities in nursing so my goals are ever changing.
4. How will the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation Scholarship help you with your studies?
It’s no secret that higher education is incredibly expensive so this scholarship has helped fund my educational pursuits and I’ve been really grateful for that. Aside from that, this scholarship is a huge token of faith from the foundation in the work that I will do when I graduate and they have been a great source of support as I finish my degree and transition into the workforce.
5. How have you balanced your studies with your time as a student-athlete?
I came to CWRU knowing that pursuing nursing and being a varsity athlete would be a challenge. Throughout the recruiting process, CWRU was actually one of the few schools that told me it was even possible and I remembered that. Thankfully, I have been very lucky to have found supportive people within academics and athletics that recognize how difficult it is to do both and genuinely want to see me succeed in both. Time management was obviously a key piece, but I also think being willing to make sacrifices to keep what was important to me was necessary to maintaining a balanced life as a college student.