Tyler Hunter, ’18, has always known he wanted a career to help and care for others. That’s why he chose nursing. And thanks to an exceptional undergrad experience at Heidelberg, with professors and coaches who pushed him and demanded excellence, he’s well on his way.
For the past six months, Tyler has worked as a Critical Care nurse in the Neurointensive Care Unit at Miami Valley Hospital. It’s challenging, it’s stressful, but he loves it.
Originally, he had been on a different career path. A switch to Health Sciences his sophomore year allowed him to explore other career options in the medical field. Encouraged by professor and mentor Dr. Trevor Bates – now the president of Wilmington College – he finished his bachelor’s degree, then spent the next 20 months getting his MSN degree with a focus on clinical nurse leadership at Xavier University.
The shifts are long and challenging, replete with important tasks on which patients’ lives often depend. Among them, there’s monitoring vitals, administering meds, doing assessments, documentation, nutrition, hydration, education and communication.
“We have to continuously monitor the patient throughout the shift to ensure they do not have drastic changes in signs or symptoms,” he explains.
The job was stressful before the pandemic, but nurses like Tyler have had to find ways to cope with higher patient loads and days when, at the end of the shift, their energy is completely spent. Dealing with the emotional ups and downs, not only of the patients but their families, also can be extremely difficult. But Tyler has developed the necessary empathy and compassion to handle it. Being part of a skilled team helps.
“The pandemic showed one thing and that is that nurses are truly team players, and I feel a lot of us grew closer and now have built more trust in one another to take care of the patients who come into our unit.”
Great support system
Tyler knows he can’t be an effective caregiver if he doesn’t first take care of himself. A student-athlete football standout while at Heidelberg, fitness has always been a part of his regimen. He focuses on maintaining a healthy lifestyle through exercise, eating right and getting good sleep. Lately, he’s added meditation to help unwind and clear his mind.
“Taking care of yourself is the best way to provide excellent care to others,” he says. He also leans on the support of his fiancé and his family, who’ve always been there to lend an ear.
It’s not about the money
Tyler is the first to admit that the rewards of nursing are endless, especially seeing his patients progress from a critical stage to healing. “Seeing them face and overcome challenges with their family by their side is incredibly heartwarming, and makes me feel like I’m in the right career.
Those rewards sustain him from day to day. “I think if you look at rewards as financial compensation, then you are in the wrong career or you are doing what you’re doing for the wrong reasons,” he says.
‘Like finding your best friend’
As with all students who enroll at Heidelberg, fit is so important. Tyler found that at Heidelberg right off the bat. Choosing a college parallels finding a best friend, he says.
“You want to find a friend that will have your back and help no matter what the challenge you’re facing. But you also want that friend to challenge you to be the best you can possibly be,” he says. “I think Heidelberg balances this very well. I never had a second thought about whether or not I belonged there.”
The curriculum challenged and prepared him. Football taught him discipline, teamwork, organizational skills and the ability to learn from failure. When he needed help, his ‘Berg family – professors, coaches and peers – was there to help.
Building on the basics
If anything, Tyler felt overprepared. “When I left to pursue my master’s degree, I felt I had a step up on the competition. The professors and coaches definitely did not sell me short by preparing me for what I needed to know entering the hectic and ever-changing healthcare field.”
Heidelberg taught Tyler the basics of the human body and took it a step further by pushing him to learn how every system in the body interacts and works together. And then, it rose to the next level with experiential learning in the Cadaver Lab in advanced Anatomy & Physiology classes taught by Dr. Pam Faber.
“I believe Heidelberg is one of the few smaller liberal arts colleges, not just in Ohio, but in the country to provide someone like me the individualized education I needed for the healthcare field,” he says.
Dr. Faber had a strong influence on Tyler’s ‘Berg experience. “She preached perfection and demanded excellence, and I think that’s what Heidelberg is all about.”
In 2017, she launched a partnership with a local nursing home that allowed Heidelberg students to pursue STNA training and certification. Tyler was in the first class to complete the training. That experience stands out, more than any other, in preparing him to choose and pursue nursing as a career.
He also credits the profound impact of Dr. Bates’ pharmacology, pathophysiology and exercise physiology courses that “pushed me mentally and physically and emotionally, and made me a better student and now a better nurse.”
Another alumni love story
Heidelberg nurtures its graduates in many ways, and often, we hear about our alumni who met their future partner while both were students on campus. That’s the case for Tyler and his fiance’, Ericka Kaimer, ’19, who met and fell in love at Heidelberg. They will marry later this year.
“So I will always have a special place in my heart for Heidelberg!” he says.