Whitman Partners’ scholarship recipient graduates from nursing school
When Hunter Counselman received a scholarship from Whitman Partners in 2016 to attend Anderson University in South Carolina, he wasn’t planning to become a nurse. But looking back, he says he had been slowly ushered towards that direction for years.
His father, Robert, is a nurse so he was familiar with the industry. He shadowed a surgeon for a day and worked the night shift in an aftercare program at his high school. He also tutored elementary kids in an afterschool program. The common thread for him was that feeling of fulfillment when caring for people in any capacity.
And even then, he thought he might consider being a nurse.
“Originally, I wanted to do engineering,” Counselman says. “I was set on that. And then I was fortunate enough to take a tour of an engineering plant and I saw right away that I would not be happy doing that kind of work.”
As a freshman, he chose to major in business, completing all those mandatory 101 classes during those first two years. But when he got to the point where he had to begin taking core business courses, he hit the pause button.
“I asked myself, ‘Is this really what you want to do?’ When I thought about it, I felt like nursing was it for me,” Counselman says.
What was it like taking those first few nursing classes? Counselman says nurses have a saying: it would be highly unusual if a nursing student didn’t have at least five or six times where they questioned whether they chose the right major.
“There were so many times where I was like, ‘God, am I supposed to be doing this? Because if you don’t want me to, I can stop now,’” Counselman says. “It was rigorous and stressful at times. But by the grace of God, I graduated, got a job, and could not be happier.”
In addition to the normal rigors of nursing classes, the COVID pandemic hit during the end of his junior year. Counselman says he remembered discussions on possible modifications to classes that could occur, but he never imagined everything going completely online. Like all his fellow college students, K-12 students, and portions of the workforce, he had to adapt to learning, communicating, and working virtually.
“I’m a hands-on learner and in-person interaction is a huge thing for me, so it was hard at first,” Counselman says. “At the end of my junior year, we had to download an electronic simulator—kind of like a video game—and you’d walk into a computerized learning environment as a nurse and answer questions like, ‘What would you say to little Timmy?’ It was very impersonal.”
Though it was difficult to shift to online learning, the pace slowed down to the point where students could spend extra time with the material, which many of his peers agreed was a plus. Even though restrictions and lockdowns were still in place, Counselman did have the opportunity to get some instruction hours inside a hospital last fall.
Though amid a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, the experience silenced his doubts about a nursing career for good.
“Seeing our students and staff come together as one, creating friendships, and having study sessions together created a closer, more family-feeling environment than we would have had in a normal year,” Counselman says. “It inspired me and showed me what kind of nurse I wanted to be in the future.”
After Counselman passes his NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination), he is slated to take a position as an ICU nurse at Spartanburg Medical Center in South Carolina. He would like to further his education at some point, but for the moment wants to deepen his experience in the ICU and possibly step into a leadership role there.
“I feel like as a nursing student coming out of COVID, I’ve had experiences that a nurse coming out of school during a normal year doesn’t have,” Counselman says. “I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, and I truly feel like nursing is the ideal field for me.”