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Nursing student finds confidence through West River program

Jonna Koegelenberg
Jonna Koegelenberg works on a simulation lab through the West River Nursing program in Rapid City.

Jonna Koegelenberg has always been sure of herself when it came down to becoming a nurse.

“I knew I wanted to help people, it is a stable profession, and the opportunities are endless” she said.

The Vermillion native said coming to South Dakota State was an easy choice. She felt that the university had the most prominent nursing program in the state. Koegelenberg said packing up her things and moving to Brookings was easy, but the road to becoming a nurse is not.

“Starting college I was terrified. I let my lack of confidence take over my grades,” she said.

She spent the first two-and-a-half years in Brookings as a pre-nursing student before making the decision to move to Rapid City to enroll in the West River Nursing program. After taking in nursing school with open arms, Koegelenberg said she began to see improvement in her own academic performance.

She said the West River Nursing program was a good fit for her. Shorter trips for clinicals, small class sizes and good relationships have worked to her benefit.

“We get to know our professors well … everyone out here is pretty close,” she said. “The instructors are amazing. They will do anything to help you succeed.”

Koegelenberg has spent her time as a tutor for several classes in the program, is a nursing ambassador and was a student representative for her class. She said her greatest challenge through nursing school has been teaching herself to think differently.

“I had to retrain my brain. With nursing school you have to answer questions differently. There are a lot of correct answers, but you have to decide which one is the best answer in a given situation,“ she said.

Now, Koegelenberg is about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and three minors in human development and family studies, biology, and gerontology.  She said graduating hasn’t quite sunk in yet since she has been in college for five years.

After taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), she hopes to move to Seattle to find a nursing position. After growing up in South Dakota, she is looking forward to the move.

“Why not? That’s what it came down to,” she said.

Ultimately, Koegelenberg wants to become a nurse practioner. She said that Neonatal ICU or the intensive care unit for newborns, is an area she could see herself in.

Looking back, Kogelenberg found what she said she had been missing before nursing school; her confidence. Her advice to nursing students is to be sure of themselves.

“Confidence is key. Be confident in who you are and what you are capable of … give yourself opportunities to strengthen your weaknesses.”