Nursing Grad Saves a Life

Student Spotlight: Emilee Kelly

Staff Writer
Apr 25, 2022

Throughout nursing school, Emilee Kelly struggled. While many other students at Joyce already had a CNA license or experience working in healthcare, she had neither. The only experience the new mother had with the healthcare system was as a patient herself, in the delivery room.

Joyce Nursing Alumni Saves a Life After Graduation


But one summer afternoon, shortly after nursing school graduation, Emilee was driving with her mother when a car swerved in front of them and crashed into a bank of rocks. In a heartbeat, her nursing instinct took over.

Emilee jumped out of the car and ran over to the crash scene. She pushed aside the air bags and found a woman facedown on the passenger seat. “I could tell she was having a seizure,” Emilee said. “I tried to open the car door, but it was locked. All I could think was to get to her. So I reached in and unlocked the passenger door and pulled her out.”

Responding to an Emergency

The new nurse rolled the passenger on her side and noticed her ashen color. “I could tell she was starting to go blue,” said Emilee. “I saw a partially eaten hot dog on the floor and knew she was choking, too. I wanted to pull her out and give her the Heimlich, but when I opened her mouth I could see a piece of hotdog. I was able to reach in and pull it out. I just placed her so she wouldn’t hurt her head and turned her on her side. After the seizure was over, I kept asking her questions to assess her level of consciousness.

“By the time the paramedics got there, she was talking.”

In hindsight, Emilee couldn’t believe she didn’t panic. “I felt like I was working on a mannequin at school and someone was grading me. I looked at her and just knew all the things to do. It was an instinctive thought process.”

Related resource: Emergency Nursing Skills

A nurse discovers her passion

As a nursing school grad, Emilee was grateful for the experience — both because she had an opportunity to save someone’s life and now she knows she can handle her newly adopted profession. “It was nice having to face an emergency as a new nurse. I’ve never had anything happen quite like that, that required so much critical thinking to keep someone alive.”

The experience gave her a lot of faith in her own abilities. “If I can feel confident on my own like that,” said Emilee, “when I’m at work, I can feel really confident.”

Emilee found a love of nursing two years earlier, when she was hospitalized. Pregnant with her second child, Emilee developed severe preeclampsia. Baby Jaxson was quickly put into the NICU.

“Nurses saved my life,” Emilee said. “I had such a great experience, I wanted to be a nurse ever since my son was born.”

Related resource: Emergency Skills for New Nurses

Rising to the challenge

Lacking any experience in healthcare, nursing school was a challenge for Emilee. Her first clinical instructor, Heather Panek, recognized her struggle. The instructor pulled Emilee aside and shared that she hadn’t been a CNA when she’d started nursing school, either. But she assured Emilee that becoming an amazing RN would come with time.

Emilee looked around and decided that if all those other people could do it, she could do it, too. And she never looked back.

Emilee graduated in May 2016 with an associate degree in nursing and got her RN license shortly after. She now works in the NICU at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. She was inspired to specialize in neonatal care by the nurses who cared for her son while he was in the NICU.

The recent grad is grateful for the tough classes and all the difficulties she went through during school. “If school isn’t that hard on you,” Emilee said, “and then you’re thrown into a [life-threatening] situation, you’re not going to know what to do!”

In fact, Emilee noticed Joyce’s teachers seemed to take pride in the difficulty of their classes. Mary Ann Cook, a particularly hard instructor, had amazing lectures and incredibly hard exams. One day, Emilee was one of the last students to finish an exam. She was just leaving the classroom when the instructor walked past. “That was so hard!” Emilee exclaimed. “Good!” the nurse replied cheerfully and walked on down the hall.

The path to nursing success

After graduation, Joyce University helped Emilee translate her non-medical skills, like recordkeeping, to healthcare. Emilee was self-employed for years before going to nursing school, and Joyce helped her build a resume and practice interviewing, since she had little experience with either.

“If school weren’t so hard, I wouldn’t be as good,” Emilee said. “I found the difficulty to be a challenge — and I stood up to it and met it.”

Emilee is proud that all those clinicals and tough tests paid off, and she looks forward to saving more lives — and perhaps inspiring others to go into the nursing profession as well.

At Joyce, we’re proud to prepare our students and faculty to face life-and-death situations during the course of their jobs.

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