Imani Gaetjens-Oleson ’20 has always wanted to be a nurse. And she knew as early as second grade that she wanted to help deliver babies. By applying to Colby-Sawyer’s elite nursing program, she put in motion the steps to realize that dream. The powerful partnership between Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) and Colby-Sawyer has given her firsthand clinical experience, including the chance to spend weeks working on Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s prestigious birthing pavilion. By the end of her OB/GYN rotation, she had witnessed births and confirmed that her childhood dream was still what she wants to pursue.

Though she still has time before she graduates, Gaetjens-Oleson has big plans for her future. After she accomplishes her goal of working as an OB/GYN nurse, she wants to continue her education and pursue interests in midwifery, women’s health and maternal-fetal public health.

When you were looking at colleges, what about D-H, Colby-Sawyer’s primary clinical partner, drew you to the nursing program?

I grew up in Lancaster, N.H., a small town, so the opportunity to come to a bigger area and see more intense care was very attractive. Now that I’m here, the whole environment is amazing. D-H is a teaching hospital, so you’re learning with other nurses, you’re learning with medical students and you’re learning with physician assistant students. Everybody is really encouraging. A doctor will pull you aside and say, “Come look at this.” The hospital hierarchy isn’t as evident; employees want everyone to learn.

Imani Gaetjens-Oleson ’20 working with a fellow nursing student to inject medication intravenously.
Beyond the elite clinical site placement offered by Colby-Sawyer’s partnerships with D-H and other local hospitals, an excellent curriculum and expert faculty distinguish Colby-Sawyer as one of the most distinctive, top-performing nursing programs. What have you enjoyed about the program outside of your clinical experiences?

I have met some of my truest friends at Colby-Sawyer in my nursing courses. Going through stressful exams and clinicals together creates a bond that is indescribable. Having the support of my peers has been invaluable.

The faculty are dedicated to our learning and our success, as well as our personal development. Even in such a high-stress environment, I am surrounded by individuals I can lean on, and that support facilitates my learning and encourages my confidence to continue expanding my knowledge and skills.

Which courses and professors have made the biggest impact on your learning?

All the professors and courses are incredible, so choosing only one is challenging. I loved my specialties rotation last semester, in which I was able to study pediatrics, obstetrics and mental health. The clinical experiences I had in those rotations and the professors I had during that time really stand out. Assistant Professor Boulanger and adjunct faculty member Katie Cormier really made it a special and rewarding time for me. They encouraged my learning and pushed me to become a better nurse.

Imani Gaetjens-Oleson ’20 working with a fellow nursing student to digitally record patients' pharmaceuticals.
You have taken courses taught by graduates of Colby-Sawyer’s undergraduate nursing and M.S.N. programs, School of Nursing & Health Sciences Assistant Professors Katie Darak ’12, ’18, and Jennifer Holl ’06. And, you get to work beside Colby-Sawyer alumni at D-H. How does learning from former Colby-Sawyer nursing students expand your perspective?

Often it is easy to feel that there is no end to the tests, care plans and lengthy research projects. Seeing graduates such as Professors Holl and Darak thriving and progressing their nursing knowledge, and opening all the doors nursing unlocks, is beyond encouraging. More than anyone, they deeply understand what it is we are going through as they have both figuratively and literally walked in our scrubs.

We also have the chance to work with many Colby-Sawyer alumni in clinicals, and they give us tips for navigating junior year. It is great to know that everywhere we go, we have people there to support and encourage us.

Colby-Sawyer maintains a strong foundation in the liberal arts, and you are also a member of the Wesson Honors Program. How have aspects of Colby-Sawyer’s liberal arts-based academic experience augmented your nursing education?

When nursing can sometimes seem a little more black and white, the liberal arts requirement and the Wesson Honors Program allow you to see things in every color. My first honors course was my First Year Symposium with School of Arts & Sciences Professor Ann Page Stecker, and it revolved around one word: "cold." That word, while seemingly inconsequential, unlocked many doors. Cold was no longer a temperature but a feeling, a speed and a measurement of time. Honors and liberal arts courses force you to think in new ways that expand your mindset, and combining them with my nursing education has only made me a better student, person and future practitioner.