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From aspiring artist to caring nurse

Jamie Christensen planned to be an artist but found her true calling in nursing.

“I feel that it’s who I am now. I still have time to do my art. This feels like this is what I’m supposed to do,” she said.

Christensen is a registered nurse at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King. She began working there six years ago as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

Since that time, she received both Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Registered Nurse (RN) stipends from the veterans home.

Through both programs, employees received stipends to further their nursing education. Each participant agreed to work at the home for a minimum of two years upon completion of either program – or they might have been required to repay the stipends they received.

From fiscal year 2004-05 through fiscal year 2008-09, 33 were accepted into the LPN Stipend Program and 25 were accepted into the RN Program.

Christensen was one of them.

Before deciding to become a nurse, she was content – working at a gas station in Neenah while doing art on the side.

Christensen did murals and pottery and also painting.

One particular customer at the gas station complimented her on her personality and urged her to consider working for the Visiting Nurses Association.

“I started as a housekeeper. They put me through resident assistant training,” Christensen said.

She worked at community based residential facilities and next worked for Pnuma Health Care in Appleton.

“I loved that place. I loved working there and the people,” she said. “But, there wasn’t room for growth. So then I started looking around.”

After Christensen was accepted into the CNA program at Crystal River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Waupaca, she moved here.

“While doing my training, I heard about King,” she said. “I applied for King and Brown County and was offered both. I chose King because of the stipend (program). At that point, I thought this is where I want to be. I love art but wanted to keep it for a hobby.”

In 2007, Christensen graduated as an LPN from Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton. That same year, she started going back to school for an associate degree in nursing. She graduated in May 2009 from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Ashland.

“I thought I would have to quit work in order to go to school,” she said. “I was granted a stipend and leave without pay.”

She went to school full-time in August 2008, returning to work at King whenever she had time off or weekends free.

For Christensen, there was never any question of where she wanted to work after earning her associate degree in nursing.

“I had to do a portfolio for school. Everything had to do with going back to King. It was all about how good they had been to me, and how I wanted to continue my career with them,” she said.

Today, she works at Ainsworth Hall and continues to further her nursing education.

Christensen is enrolled in Marian University’s accelerated program for those who have an RN license.

She says the program will prepare her to obtain her masters of nursing degree with her final goal to become a nurse practitioner.

Her anticipated graduation date is May 2015.

“I would like to stay working here. It’s home here,” she said. “It’s always where I come back to. I have so many mentors here.”

Christensen said that becoming a nurse has changed everything about her.

“I was the stereotypical artist, free spirit,” she said. “Now, I’m very organized. I’m very strict about my goals. I think nursing has really done that.”

She enjoys working with the veterans. “They have great stories to tell,” Christensen said. “You have a very special job when you’re taking care of someone’s loved one.”

Working in geriatrics gives her many opportunities to teach her patients and to explain to them why she is doing a certain thing.

“I love the veterans. I love the patriotic feeling, especially around the holidays. I’m proud to work here and take care of the people who took care of our country,” she said. “It’s not just a job. It’s an honor to work here.”

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