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After first serving their country, couple now trains to serve patients

“We’ve heard a lot from friends, ‘Oh man, I definitely wouldn’t want to be going to school with my spouse.’” But Joseph and Hannah Potter think it’s one of the best things going for them.

The Potters are in their second semester in the nursing program; they have classes together and are assigned to clinicals in the same locations. And although they typically study at the same time, they rarely study together.

Joseph and Hannah Potter smile on a hilltop with mountain sprawling in the background under a blue sky.

“We tried that for like a day and it’s stressful,” Joseph said, laughing as he described their opposite learning styles.

The Potters have many shared interests – running, hunting and nursing – so there’s almost nothing they don’t do together. But it’s not just interests they have in common; they both also have military experience.

Transferring skills from the Army to nursing

Originally from Idaho, Joseph Potter joined the Army in 2007. He spent nine years in various infantry positions – from parachute infantryman to rifleman to squad leader – before transitioning out of active duty. He served another three years with the Idaho National Guard.

As his career goals shifted, he decided to leave military service and pursue nursing. He believes the skills he learned in the infantry will serve to his benefit as he continues growing in the field of nursing.

“It will be helpful that I have faced life-or-death situations before, I’ve had to serve in austere conditions without nearly enough equipment or support, and I’ve learned how to operate with some autonomy while also working under a hierarchy of management and policy,” he said.

Two paths to the same goal

Hannah and Joseph Potter smile mid-dance with a sign that says I can't dance
Hannah and Joseph Potter

Joseph and Hannah met while both living in Colorado; they married six years ago and moved to Idaho shortly after.

At the time, Joseph was planning to go to nursing school so he worked on completing his prerequisite classes. But then he ended up going overseas to do diplomatic security contract work for the Department of State.

Meanwhile, Hannah’s interest in nursing grew. She had previously been in medical settings, first as an EMT and then as an emergency room technician, so she knew she loved patient care.

“I had wanted to go back to school – especially in nursing – for a while, but just didn’t have a great way to pay for it,” she said. So she joined the Air Force Reserve.

Hannah trained for six months as a dental technician. She figured she could always go into dentistry if she didn’t end up going back to school.

“But I got done with the dental training and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s for me,’” she said.

As Hannah balanced her part time Reserve requirements, she started knocking out her own nursing prerequisite coursework. When the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan prevented Joseph from continuing contract work, the couple decided to apply to Boise State’s School of Nursing together.

Balancing busy schedules

Between nursing classes, clinicals and work, the addition of driving down to Utah for Air Force Reserve drills once a month has made this semester “particularly stressful,” Hannah said. “But it’s worth it.”

“We’re definitely blessed in that I have the GI-Bill paying for mine and she has the Reserve paying for hers,” Joseph said. “So that cuts down on stress quite a bit.”

Outside of these obligations, the couple also participates as members of the Wyakin Foundation, a veterans service organization in Boise focused on professional development and networking. Jenny Alderden, a U.S. Navy veteran and associate professor at the School of Nursing, is also Hannah’s mentor at the foundation.

Despite the Potters’ busy schedules, being in the same semester of the nursing program has made scheduling time with each other outside of work and school rather simple.

“We’re always in the same place,” Hannah said. “It doesn’t take that long to go for a little run…so it’s easy to get away for a few minutes.”

Joseph explained how they’ve been known to jog down to Prost in downtown Boise, enjoy a pretzel and a drink, and then “run much slower back,” he said.

“We are very intentional about having a life outside of school,” Joseph said. “Sometimes it gets a little bit tough to make sure that happens…but for the most part, I think we’re balancing it well.”

Looking forward to the versatility and possibilities

The biggest draw to nursing for both Joseph and Hannah is its adaptability.

Hannah would like to commission as a nurse officer after graduation, and she loves the possibility of being stationed at different American bases around the globe.

Joseph and Hannah smile with the skyline of a European city behind them.
The Potters have visited Europe four times since they married.

“It’s a degree that you can really take anywhere in the entire world,” Hannah said. “I just love the versatility of that.”

And since the couple has “a big travel bug,” versatility is a major win for them.

Joseph explained that traveling is usually what motivates them to save money: “If we don’t go out for cheeseburgers, then we can put that money towards Europe.”

Not only is nursing an occupation needed worldwide, but it also affords a variety of specialties within the field.

“If I don’t particularly enjoy one kind of nursing, I’ll just switch to a different kind of nursing,” Joseph said. “I never had that option [in the Army]. It was just like, you go where you’re told – that’s it.”

For now, the couple is focused on the next big journey ahead of them: becoming licensed Bronco Nurses.