The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree Brandy Jurevitz was awarded on Dec. 14 honored her accomplishments, hard work and a never-ending drive to care for others. It also honored two of the most significant people in her life.
"That is why this was so perfect for me. St. Ambrose University was part of my dad and nursing was part of my grandmother," she said. "They pushed me to always strive for my dreams. It is pretty exciting that this is happening, and hard too, that they are not here to celebrate it with me."
Brandy is one of more than 200 students who were conferred degrees during the annual St. Ambrose University Winter Commencement Ceremony. A little less than two months later, she'll start work as a general pediatric nurse at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. "I am super excited. It is a dream come true," she said.
Brandy was in middle school when her father, Bob Jurevitz ‘86, a record-holding former SAU running back, was diagnosed with ALS. Before he died in 2011, Brandy voluntarily assumed a caregiver role.
"I would wake up before school and get him ready for his day before I would get ready for my day. I really enjoyed being able to make that impact on him and spending that extra time with him. It was one of the things that drew me to nursing," she said.
Also, Brandy's paternal grandmother, Georgia, had been a nurse. "She was one of the most impactful people in my life. She passed away a couple of years ago, and people tell me I am her clone. Grandma Georgia was fun and happy all the time, she loved giving to other people. Being told, ‘You remind me so much of Georgia' is my favorite compliment," she said.
Brandy completed her first two years of college an hour away from her hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa. During that time, she also worked at the Stead Family Children's Hospital and volunteered at Camp Heart Connection, where she made dreams come true for pediatric oncology patients and their siblings, who spent a week at their own camp, too.
Those experiences solidified her plans to work in pediatric oncology. When it was time to begin nursing school, Brandy transferred to St. Ambrose to be closer to her family. In addition to volunteering at Hope at the Brick House and participating in Dance Marathon, she continued to volunteer with Camp Heart Connection and build on the close relationships she'd developed with children at the camp.
"Those experiences have made me a better nurse. I not only take care of patients, but I also see how it is impacting the whole family and I try to take care of them as well," Brandy said.
This year she completed her preceptorship in the Pediatric Oncology/Hematology Unit at the Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City. "It was absolutely amazing," she said. "I loved it because I developed relationships with pediatric patients and their families. I grew immensely, and I was offered a job as a nurse in the General Pediatric Inpatient Unit."
Brandy is frequently asked about the emotional toll of caring for children with cancer. "I've had a couple of campers pass away," she said, "and I always hold onto the fact I would rather have met these kiddos and been able to make an impact on their life, and the impact they've made on my life, than to never have met them at all."
Brandy's ability to identify a positive in each and every situation stands out, even to her cohort, who chose her to present a speech at the pinning ceremony. "Our cohort is very small, there are 20 of us, so we've become very close. I will miss having 19 best friends and I will miss seeing faculty in the hallways. They were always happy and checking in on us," she said.
"I love the nursing program at SAU. Education is on a personal level and every professor makes you feel special and important, that you are smart and will be an amazing nurse," she said.
"One person who had a deep impact on my education was Nursing Department Chair Katie Browning, DNP. As a professor, she is absolutely amazing and took things to a level we could really understand. Not only does she care about us and our grades, but especially with all I've gone through with my dad, she's cared about me as a person. She is really special," Brandy said.
Throughout her life and education, Brandy's mother, Tracey, has been a stable, encouraging presence. "She has been really supportive through everything. My mom had to care for four kids by herself and I'm thankful for all she's done to support us. She always makes a point to tell us how proud my dad would be. My siblings have been absolutely amazing and through all of my breakdowns and stress, helped me come to terms with the reason I was doing all of this," she said.
Before Brandy's father died, he asked each of his children to promise they would earn a college degree. "I've done it," Brandy said. "I am so excited to be able to honor him and earn my degree at St. Ambrose. I know he is here watching me and is proud of me, as well as my grandma."
The Nursing degree Brandy Jurevitz was awarded Dec. 14 honored her accomplishments, hard work and drive to care for others. It also honored two of the most significant people in her life: her late father and grandmother.