GODFREY – A mission trip to Guatemala and a recommendation from a friend set Lewis and Clark Community College alumna Gretchen Werner on a life-defining career path.
After witnessing the healthcare needs of Guatemalan children during a mission trip as a teenager, Werner knew what she wanted to do with her life.
“We had a nurse on the trip with us and she was constantly receiving healthcare-related questions,” Werner said. “When I saw the needs of the people and the knowledge the nurse shared with them, I was inspired to become a nurse so I could serve those around me.”
Having moved to Illinois during her senior year of high school, Lewis and Clark wasn’t always on her radar.
“Someone recommended Lewis and Clark’s Nursing program,” Werner said. “As I started my general education classes, I began to understand the value of L&C’s Nursing program and realized I could save a lot of money and get an incredible education.”
Werner graduated from L&C in 2017 with her Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2019 and is currently enrolled in the Duke University Adult-Gerontologic Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Master’s program, which she expects to complete in May 2022. She hopes to eventually earn her doctorate as well.
While at L&C, Werner worked as a student tutor and with L&C’s College for Life program.
“My favorite memories at L&C are definitely my time spent with the College for Life students,” Werner said. “The students are so fun and are so excited to be on campus. I learned so much from my time visiting, volunteering and working with them.”
Although she currently works as a travel nurse at Memorial Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, she has previously worked as a medical/surgical and ICU nurse at OSF Healthcare St. Anthony’s Health Center in Alton.
“L&C has a wonderful reputation for nursing in the area and hospitals love hiring L&C graduates,” she said.
Werner said her choice to attend L&C helped her move on to earn her bachelor’s degree without the burden of debt.
“I was blessed to receive scholarships each semester and I was able to graduate debt free,” she said. “This blessing led me to be able to pay for my bachelor’s degree out of pocket. I’m currently on track to complete my master’s and doctorate programs completely debt free.”
During her time at L&C, Werner credits several instructors who had a major impact on her education and career, including biology professors Robert Kokenyesi and Greg Nasello, as well as nursing professors Rodney White and Vickie Rodgers.
“L&C prepared me in so many ways to begin my career,” Werner said. “I have always been a quiet and passive person, but my time in college taught me how to advocate for myself and my patients.”
Werner describes the time she spent caring for an organ donor and their family as the most meaningful and rewarding experience she’s had as a nurse.
“I was able to be with the family through the entire process – the decision to donate the patient’s organs, the honor walk and, later, attending the patient’s memorial service,” she said. “It will forever be one of my most memorable experiences.”
For more information on L&C’s Nursing program, visit www.lc.edu/nursing or contact Sheri Banovic at (618) 468-4410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.