KOKOMO, Ind. – Nurses made a difference in Zane Smith’s life.
The hope they offered him from early childhood, when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, led him to choose nursing as his major when he enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo.
After graduating in December 2021, Smith now wants to make the same difference in his patients’ lives, as a nurse on the cardiovascular ICU floor at IU Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis.
“I saw the impact nurses have on people, and how they can make a difference when you’re in the hospital, or you have a diagnosis,” the Peru resident said. “That’s one of the most vulnerable times of your life. A nurse is there advocating for you. Nursing is a great profession to help people.”
He was also influenced by his mother, who is a nurse. Smith said his mother was surprised when he chose nursing, after he began as a business major.
“I started going to the first week of my prerequisite classes, and I just didn’t feel like it was the right thing,” he said. “My mom was kind of shocked at first when I changed my major, but she’s been really excited about it. Being able to relate to her as a nurse has been rewarding.”
He begins his job with plenty of experience, having worked as a patient care assistant since spring 2020 in the same unit at IU Health Methodist. It was challenging commuting more than an hour each way for the job, but worth it for the experience he gained.
“I thought it would be more of a challenge working at a bigger hospital, and I knew I would learn something every day,” he said. “Even as a nursing assistant, I could relate what I was doing back to my schooling. Not only did I grow my nursing skills, but I also improved in how to communicate with patients, so I’m more ready to step into my professional role.”
As a patient care assistant, Smith performed duties like transferring patients to other departments, helping with daily living activities, or other activities to help the nurses.
“The main thing is to be there to make their job easier and let them worry more about things that are in their scope of practice,” he said. “We do things they could do, allowing them to use their time in a better way.”
It’s been a challenging job, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — but it also reminds him of why he’s going into the profession.
“There’s been an influx of patients, Covid and non-Covid patients,” he said. “Patients are sicker than in the past, and there has been burnout. A lot of nurses I know are talking about how hard it is due to the shortage of nurses. They have still been able to adapt and overcome it.”
He plans to return to school in the future to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
In addition to his work at the hospital, Smith is a business owner, with a produce stand operating out of the Ace Hardware Store in Peru. He bought it shortly after graduating from Peru High School in 2017 and has run it for the last five summers.
“That’s been able to help me pay for school and alleviate some expenses, so I don’t have to work as much, and can focus on school,” he said, adding that while he grew some of the produce he sold, he also bought it wholesale from local farmers.
“I’ve really appreciated it, and the people who supported my business while I was going to school,” he said.
Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.