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Rural Idaho nursing student was inspired by nurses who cared for her through chronic illness

Roughly 34 percent of Idaho residents live in rural areas, and Boise State has made a concerted effort to reach students in those areas over the years through its Rural Initiative and other programs.

Makenna Dockstader is one such student, having attended middle and high school in Declo, Idaho, with a population of 367 people. She currently is in the School of Nursing’s undergraduate program, a recent recipient of the Helen Wright Nursing Scholarship, and is on track to graduate next fall.

Dockstader spent some of her childhood in Boise, where she attended elementary school. Her family moved to Declo the summer before she started middle school.

“It was a complete culture shock. The entire school was one hallway. I didn’t like it, I wanted to transfer to another county,” she said, “but within six months, I knew it was the best place for me.”

She says that the tight-knit community helped her develop a sense of empathy at a young age. She graduated high school with the same people she met her first year of middle school, a small group of 80 students. When she graduated, she already had plans to pursue a career in healthcare. Dockstader’s desire to work in medicine and healthcare stems from personal experience, having been diagnosed with a chronic illness at birth.

“I felt like every time I went into a doctors office they weren’t listening to me. It wasn’t until I saw a specialist and they sent me to a nurse practitioner who really discovered what the problem was, proposed a solution, and between her and my surgeons we were able to put a plan in place,” Dockstader explained. “She played an important role in my treatment. It was nurses who cared about me so much, I loved when they’d come into my room and care for me.”

Dockstader’s friends and family encouraged her to attend College of Idaho for their physician’s assistant program, telling her it would be like the small-town community she was used to.

Unfortunately, “it wasn’t,” she said. After a year she transferred to Boise State to pursue a degree in nursing.

Dockstader says her experience at Boise State has more closely resembled the close-knit peer group she’s used to back home.

“I get the same [small-town community] feeling from the School of Nursing’s cohort model. It feels like that small high school. The professors are much more communicative than I’d expected, they were a support team instantly. Even from the get-go, this was the right choice.”

During her years in the School of Nursing’s undergraduate program, Dockstader says she’s developed a new confidence in learning from and advocating for others. Every class has her surrounded by people who have something new to share, whether it’s a fellow student, or a staff or faculty member.

Once she graduates, Dockstader plans to pursue a career in pediatric nursing and care for patients the same way her nurses cared for her.

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence from the nursing program in general, but with the help of the instructors, I’ve learned to trust my work and trust my skills,” she said.

Makenna is a recipient of the Helen Pettet Wright Nursing Scholarship, established by the late Helen Pettet Wright, a native Idahoan, through her will. Helen was a registered nurse graduating from St. Luke’s Hospital Nurse Training School in 1939. Helen was aware of the great need for registered nurses and provided a legacy gift to help students like Makenna to accomplish their goal.

Click here to make a gift to support nursing student success, or for more information contact Heather Jauregui, senior director of development, at