Interview with Laurie Brown

by Vicki Heisser  |   

PWSC: Hey, Laurie. So, where are you from and how did you end up at PWSC?

Laurie: I grew up in Iowa and made my way to Alaska via Colorado. I was a river guide and then I met my husband, who is also a river guide, and we came up here and worked as river guides…then we decided to move to Valdez and start spending our winters here. We love the mountains, the snow and the skiing, and the people. So we made our home here. We live out at 46 Mile on the Richardson. I worked for the City of Valdez for a couple of years and it was very stable, but it was just not very satisfying. So I thought, "Well, what can I do in Valdez? What do I want to do, but do here?" And so nursing is what stood out to me. My parents were both Physician’s Assistants…it turns out that your parents do kind of rub off on you. I really respect them as caregivers. It's not easy, but it is rewarding. So I began my prerequisites here, while I was working for the city. Heidi Frank was super helpful to me as an advisor when I was trying to figure out what I needed. Everybody is encouraging. So I applied to the nursing program. I was accepted. Now I'm doing nursing school and it is full on because I have a family. I have a two-year-old daughter, Anaka. She is the best, but it makes my time management really tight.

PWSC: No doubt, you are busy with everything; do you feel well supported in the program?

Laurie: Yes, I do. Our cohort is tight. Kelly Mitchell is, of course, a great instructor. This semester is different because the lecture portions of our classes are online and we weren’t able to go to Fairbanks for clinical. Kelly's doing great with our lab and clinical and trying to get us as much time as possible.  He is trying to make us the best nurses we can be here.

Our professors from UAA via these Zoom classes are very supportive. They're easy to email. They get back to you right away. They do check-ins. 

Also, I will say that… I'm supported by the Workforce Development Grant.

PWSC: Okay. Did you get that through the Department of Labor?

Laurie: Yes, it's fantastic. They are trying to prepare people that live in Alaska to work in Alaska. Financially, that's huge because right now we're living on one income. I want to encourage anybody that is worried about the financial aspect of going to school to look into this grant. 

PWSC: That's good.

Laurie: …We're technically UAA students, not PWSC students, even though it feels like we're PWSC students. I've always felt welcomed and supported here because everybody you see is friendly and nice. Whether you're taking a class with them or not, people say hello to you, and it's great. But then I realized how much the college does for the nursing program, even though it's technically separate. Supporting us with equipment and IT support. 

PWSC: Is there anything else you would like to share? 

Laurie: Yes, we started going into the hospital and the staff there has been fantastic. I know it's extra work for them with the COVID precautions. We have to be tested as well. It's a small hospital. So having more people come in certainly adds to their workload. The nurses are very welcoming. They are trying to help us become good nurses as well. Having their support and their hands-on skills and giving us an opportunity and telling us how they do what they do and why they do what they do is invaluable. That's what we're here for, is to work with patients. So the patients, the community, basically, that allows us to work with them, that’s important. And then the nurses that allow us to shadow them and practice these skills, it's a big network here helping us to become nurses.