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One Nurse’s Path to a Career in Rural Healthcare

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Brandon Varilek, R.N., P.C.C.N., C.C.T.C.

Doctoral Candidate, South Dakota State University, GNSA Leadership Council

I first became interested in becoming a nurse during my senior year of high school. My parents instilled in me at a young age that I should always strive to help those in need. This core value led me to nursing, and I have never looked back.

For those considering advanced education, nursing provides limitless possibilities. After I graduated from Augustana University in 2013, I worked as a cardiopulmonary nurse at Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls, S. D. I have worked as a Transplant Coordinator with the Avera Transplant Institute since 2015, taking care of post-transplant patients.

Care for those who need it most

Although I work at a hospital in the largest city in South Dakota, the transplant team’s presence spans the entire state, covering vast rural areas. By working closely with patients on the Native American reservations in our state, we are able to keep our commitment of providing high quality rural care.

This commitment allows us to offer the precious resource of a life-saving transplant to a population that has the highest rate of end-stage renal disease in the country. This work has inspired me to continue working with rural communities to ensure access to high quality healthcare.

Preparing to serve

To better serve rural communities, I decided to pursue — and am nearly finished with — my Ph.D. in nursing from South Dakota State University. After completing my Ph.D., I plan to teach at a university, which will allow me to inspire future nurses to pursue careers in rural healthcare. South Dakota is one of several rural states that need high quality nurses in all clinics and hospitals, not just large facilities in major cities.

During my journey to the Ph.D., I became involved in the Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GNSA) and now sit on its Leadership Council. I highly recommend the GNSA for any graduate student because they offer free webinars, leadership opportunities, and member-exclusive scholarships.

For anyone considering becoming a nurse, I strongly recommend it. Nursing opens the door to a wide variety of professional opportunities that make a real difference in people’s lives and well-being.

Brandon Varilek, R.N., P.C.C.N., C.C.T.C., Doctoral Candidate, South Dakota State University, GNSA Leadership Council, [email protected]

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