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Nursing student spends summer in unique Army training

Summer is a great time to travel and try new things, and that’s exactly what senior nursing student Kathryn Colburn did. But as a cadet in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), her experience looked a little different than most.

For the first part of Colburn’s summer, she had a month-long officer training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The same day she finished there, Colburn flew to Fort Cavazos, Texas, to work at the Carl R. Darnall Medical Center.

Cadet Kathryn Colburn poses in her uniform in from of the medical center at Fort Cavazos.
Colburn spent a month working alongside Army nurses at Fort Cavazos, Texas.

Colburn was accepted into the Army’s annual Nurse Summer Training Program, an immersive opportunity for nurse cadets to pair with an Army nurse and work alongside them on their shifts.

She completed 136 clinical hours in 28 days, spending the majority of her time in the intensive care unit. She also spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, behavioral health unit and the medical surgical floor.

“The nursing aspect is very similar – but also very different – from the rest of civilian nursing,” Colburn said. “The experience was incredible.”

Colburn smiles in uniform with another Army nurse cadet.
Colburn (right) was inspired to join the military by her father.

Part of the unique training program also included working with other nurse cadets on a project to address an area in the facility in which they could improve patient care. Then, Colburn and her group gave an in-depth presentation to an audience of their peer cadets, hospital staff and leadership.

Why Army nursing?

As far back as they can track, every generation of Colburn’s family has had at least one member in the U.S. military. When Colburn was younger, she thought it would be cool if she were to continue the trend. Her father was in the military and he often told stories about his time serving, inspiring her to join.

“Growing up, I would listen to him talk about his experiences and all the opportunities he was provided,” she said. “You get to experience things that most don’t get the chance to, and you challenge yourself every day. That is what I want out of my career.”

Colburn grew up in the Boise area, and as her interest in nursing grew, she started looking into how to combine her two passions.

“I knew we had a great nursing program in Boise and [Boise State] also had an ROTC program that would help me do that with the military,” she said. “Seeing those two together, I was like, ‘How do you pass that up kind of thing?’”

A Boise State balancing act

Colburn received scholarships to train as a cadet in Boise State’s Army ROTC battalion while she earns her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After Colburn graduates and passes her national licensing exam, she’ll commission as an officer and registered nurse in the Army Nurse Corps.

Colburn and a nurse officer in uniform stand holding a certificate.
Colburn (right) celebrates the end of the Army Nurse Summer Training Program and holds her certificate of completion.

Although she has to balance a demanding academic schedule, Colburn appreciates the way the two programs compliment one another.

“ROTC works really well around the nursing requirements, and nursing works to excuse us when we need to be excused for ROTC things,” Colburn said. “Some schools don’t work well together that way, which is unfortunate. But that’s one of the reasons why I love the nursing program at Boise State and the ROTC program here.”

For now, Colburn is excited for the unique travel and training opportunities she has as a nursing student on contract with the Army.

“It’s kind of overwhelming seeing everything I’m going to be doing,” Colburn said. “But when you take a step back and really look at the experiences you’re going to have, and just look at things one day at a time, it makes me all excited about it again.”