Fletcher ‘98, recognizes struggles students face

When students walk into the Charles L. Stone Health Center, they will be greeted by Hastings College’s new nurse, Shelley Fletcher, R.N., ‘98. Prior to being at HC, Fletcher had been a nurse working in acute medical care, specifically intensive care units. As a student at HC, the English major and studio art minor also played soccer in a brand new program and battled a variety of issues that college students still deal with today. 

Fletcher has first-hand knowledge from her time as a student in relating to students’ struggles to acquire housing and money to pay the bills. When Fletcher was a student at HC, she took classes full-time, played soccer and worked full-time hours at a time when the minimum wage was just under $4. After paying all of her bills each month, Fletcher had $50 or less per month for groceries. Fletcher could pay for about two weeks’ worth of groceries before she ran out and only enough money to buy ramen noodles, a bag of apples or peanut butter. Along with these struggles, she also learned what it was like to be homeless as a college student due to roommate issues.

“My roommate had kicked me out so that her boyfriend could move in and I of course, living off minimum wage, didn’t have enough money saved up for a first-month deposit and rent and lived in my car for a month,” Fletcher said. “So I totally recognize all of the facets that come into that… It definitely plays on my heart strings and I understand what students’ struggles are trying to go to school, work, be in sports or other activities and still try to be successful as a student.”

When Fletcher came to HC, she became part of the brand new soccer program. As a first-year, she was the only female on a co-ed club soccer team. During her time as a student, the team grew into separate men’s and women’s club teams before they entered into the Northern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as full-fledged varsity sports. Fletcher noted that while she had played soccer before college, most of the HC soccer teams during the first couple years consisted of walk-ons and recruits from other sports such as track. After completing her schooling, Fletcher learned about the struggles that occur in the nursing field.

Previous to her new position on campus, Fletcher was an emergency medical dispatcher in Lincoln, NE. After that, she worked in an intensive care unit in Norfolk, NE, before moving back to Hastings three years ago, working at Mary Lanning Healthcare. While it wasn’t as high of an acuity as Norfolk, she was burned out and eventually quit to take a break and work on her own projects. She had been focusing on art and writing as personal therapy for the last year and a half until HC asked her to be the campus nurse in July. She had gotten burned out dealing with patients’ end-of-life situations. Fletcher saw how she was attempting to extend the lives of patients in acute care when it wasn’t necessarily helping in the long run, especially if the family wasn’t also taking advantage of the extra time they could spend with a family member close to death.

However, even though these aspects of nursing had been hard to deal with, Fletcher still felt like she couldn’t walk away from the career field of nursing. To her, it is a part of her identity and to say that she wasn’t doing anything with nursing anymore was difficult to admit.

“We go to school to find a career — something that we love to do — and that’s your calling and yet that’s also your identity. So when you don’t do anything anymore… it is really hard when somebody asks you, ‘Well what do you do?’” Fletcher said.

This job allowed her to help people on the opposite end of their lives. By doing so, she is able to teach students to avoid making the chronic bad decisions that lead to the end-of-life situations that she witnessed as an R.N. in intensive care units.

Along with the 20 hours a week as HC’s nurse, Fletcher will also be helping advise Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) and Peer HIV Education Organization (PHIVE-O). To Fletcher, other groups like College Acquaintance Rape Educators (CARE) may be better advised by a counselor since the emotional trauma outweighs the physical trauma. 

“We’re trying to figure out if it might be a better idea to have a counselor overseeing those types of groups. If it comes down to acquaintance assault or rape of any type… the emotional trauma lasts a lifetime.” Fletcher said. “(Mental health practitioners) are more of the experts on… how to work through these things and the best ways to approach people.”

If needed, Fletcher is willing to step in as the advisor for other Peer Umbrella Network (PUN) groups but believes there might be others on campus or in the community better suited to lead.

Since Fletcher is only part-time at the school, students are able to walk in for visits from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday. When she is not working, students can still access the building through the north side door on ninth street to meet with 
HC’s counselors.