A Passion for Pediatric Nursing

Lebanon Valley College graduate Christina Mentzer

Although LVC did not offer a Nursing Program when Christina Mentzer ’18 attended, that did not stop her from having a fulfilling college experience and following her passion to become a registered nurse (RN). 

“For most of my life I have felt a pull toward healthcare,” Mentzer said. “I wasn’t afraid to help take care of those sick and injured. My original career plan was to go to school to become a physician’s assistant. However, I volunteered at a children’s hospital back home and saw all the good work that the nurses were doing.”

Mentzer changed her plan during her junior year, deciding she wanted to pursue nursing. Her advisor recommended she transfer if she wanted to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Not wanting to leave the college she loved so much, she instead chose to research accelerated BSN programs to attend post-graduation. 

“I chose LVC for multiple reasons—the ability to play two collegiate sports (volleyball and softball), the small class sizes, variety of majors, and ability to know your professors,” Mentzer said.

The biology major then went on to earn her nursing degree from the University of Delaware. Although her classes were challenging, she was undeterred by the amount of learning she would have to do.

“Many of my nursing classes made sense to me immediately because the LVC biology faculty taught me solid base knowledge that could be easily applied to nursing. For instance, I was able to understand pharmacology well because I had a good understanding of cell biology. LVC also taught me how to study, and because of that, a second-degree program was straightforward. Every time someone tells me that they are going to do an accelerated BSN program, I tell them that if they know how to study, they will be successful.”

After finishing her BSN in 2020, Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital’s (PSCH) Graduate Nurse Residency program caught her eye. The program helps newly graduated nurses transition from the role of student nurse to that of a licensed RN. Mentzer started with the program in July 2020 and finished this past month, making her a full member of the PSCH staff in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

“A typical day for me can be caring for just one very ill patient or two relatively stable patients,” Mentzer said. “We care for the sickest kids in the region. My tasks range from giving medications to being involved in bedside procedures such as chest tube and central line placement.”

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed what a “typical day” looks like for just about everyone, especially healthcare workers. For Mentzer, it means extra precautions, interrupted workflow, and even going over to serve as an extra pair of hands on the adult side of the hospital.

“Children are getting COVID-19, but we are not seeing them as sick as adults. Working in an ICU is especially challenging when our patients test positive for the virus, but that is not their primary reason for admission.”

Despite the added stressors and challenges of working in healthcare during COVID-19, Mentzer successfully followed her dream. Now, she helps other families realize their dreams of having a healthy, happy family.

“The most rewarding part of being a nurse is seeing patients leave the ICU. Children are so resilient, and it is awesome to see them conquer the worst illnesses and traumas. I also enjoy connecting with the families. When parents trust you enough to leave their child in your care, or when they share moments of their child’s life with you, it is a feeling like no other.”

 

-- Kayleigh Johnson, Marketing & Communications Student Assistant