Posted on Aug 3, 2010

Taking the Extra Step with Service

Taking the Extra Step with Service

Second-degree student, Mandi Ruscher cherishes her time spent at USF working to accomplish her goal of becoming a nurse.

Mandi Ruscher, a second-degree student of the class of May 2010, is ready to make a difference, especially for those less fortunate.

She graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Arts in international relations and a certificate in women’s studies. Almost immediately after graduation Mandi embarked on a journey traveling abroad and has since worked in Hungary, Holland, Korea and Cambodia teaching English immersion classes. The majority of her time was spent in Asia teaching kindergarten, drama, music and science.

Mandi wanted a career as a diplomat working in international relations. However after teaching out of the country, she realized that she wanted to become a nurse.

“When you travel abroad, work in really impoverished nations and see the definite need for help, you don’t want to be stuck in an office doing budgeting – you want to be there, giving immunizations or however you can help” Mandi explained.

On her first trip to Cambodia, where the need was so great, Mandi realized she needed to make the switch to Nursing. While researching nursing schools and completing prerequisite courses, Mandi discovered the University of South Florida College of Nursing’s Second Degree sequence. This program allows students who have already received a bachelor’s degree in another field to receive a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a major in nursing. The sequence is typically completed in four consecutive full-time semesters. Upon completion graduates may take the nursing licensure exam.

“I had already invested five years into a teaching career that I really loved and to leave it only for four semesters was a lot easier than going into a two year program” Mandi said.

Mandi learned she was accepted in fall 2008 while teaching in South Korea, leaving her very little time to move to Tampa and prepare for classes. A dedicated student, Mandi committed to her nursing studies and immediately developed an immeasurable appreciation for her faculty and peers. Her clinical team was very cohesive and willingly provided guidance and support to help each other succeed and get through challenges.

“I don’t know how I could have done it without the support from Cathy O’Neil or Brittny Chabalowski. I never expected to have this kind of support,” Mandi said. “Knowing that we have a nursing shortage, as nurses you have to help each other. Our team started a bookshelf where we donate our used books, so the next semester’s students can utilize them.”

Mandi appreciates her time spent at USF. In class, she felt surrounded by intelligent people genuinely concerned about the care of patients. The extra steps that students take give Mandi faith in the nursing profession. She cherishes memories of students helping other students in need and classmates going the extra mile – such as making sure a patient has a cup of hot chocolate.

“It’s just the little things that you don’t think about,” Mandi said. “I would be happy to have anyone of them as my nurse – that’s important!”

Mandi feels that the College of Nursing helped her accomplish her goals by providing volunteer activities, community health experiences and opportunities for scholarships and memberships in service organizations and professional societies. She has volunteered her time in collaboration with the College of Public Health taking blood pressures and providing flu shots at USF-sponsored events. She provides service not only through the university’s, but also through volunteering her time tutoring refugees and helping families by organizing donation drives. Community service has always been a part of life for Mandi.

“I give what I can. I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have time – not a lot.” she said while smiling. “Volunteering is a
character-building experience. You get a lot more out of it than you put into it, even if it’s only a few hours a week”.

Mandi is making a difference, little by little, and every little bit counts. She is currently exploring her options for pursuing a Master’s Degree in Nursing or maybe Public Health and eventually wants to work abroad with an organization providing healthcare to the less fortunate.

Mandi provided some tips for her fellow students as they progress through the program. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your professors are here, willing to help you – fellow students are the best resources for study aids and useful websites,” she said. “Make friends in the College of Nursing, is my advice.”

Story by Sarah Benson
Photo by Luis Battistini
Originally published in the Summer 2010 Nursing Life magazine