Dany Rockwell, 32, is set to graduate from Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and begin her nursing career.



by Bobby Anderson – Writer/Photographer

It’s less than two weeks before Dany Rockwell graduates.
Just a few weeks before her final transcripts are sent to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing.
And probably a couple more weeks after that before she gets her NCLEX exam date.
“I don’t know, it seems really surreal right now,” Rockwell said of her near future. “It’s like I don’t feel this close to finishing.”
Rockwell is like thousands of students around the country in their final weeks of nursing school.
Just an assignment or two and a final exam are all that’s standing between them and the career of their dreams.
For Rockwell, who will graduate from Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, the road has been a long one for her and her family.
Out of Choctaw High Rockwell had her sights set on becoming a doctor.
“But I realized they didn’t spend a lot of time with patients,” she said.
So she applied for physician assistant’s school once, twice and finally a third time.
She decided to take a step back.
“Maybe there’s more to me than this,” she thought.
So she worked in human resources at OSU-OKC and then spent time in Academic Affairs.
Spending the final eight weeks of pregnancy on strict bedrest gave her time for her thoughts.
“Medicine was still my passion,” she remembered.
And being in a learning environment all day was tempting. She already had a bachelor’s in microbiology from that other university in Norman.
And six credit hours a semester free of charge was too good of an opportunity to pass up so Rockwell pursued her nursing degree.
OSU-OKC’s 95-percent NCLEX pass rate also called to her.
“Part of it was finding what was a good fit for me,” Rockwell said. “Originally, I wanted to do labor and delivery but then I couldn’t do that.”
Her own struggles with pregnancy and her OB rotation in school made it clear she wouldn’t be going down that path.
But that final fourth semester of critical care she spent at Integris Southwest Medical Center put everything into focus.
“Part of it is that Southwest is a smaller hospital and it has more of a family feel to it,” she said. “You get to know people from every floor and know all the doctors.”
“And because they’re part of a larger network their benefits are really good.”
So she accepted a position in the hospital’s extern program.
Twelve weeks of orientation and six months of residency await her when she graduates.
“I think the thing I’m most nervous about in critical care is I have somebody’s life in my hands,” she said. “It will be up to my judgement and my assessments as to what I do or what the doctor does. That’s a lot of responsibility. That’s somebody’s wife or husband. I’ve been prepared well but it’s a huge responsibility.”
But she’s already accomplished so much.
“Nursing school is incredibly tough,” Rockwell said. “You have to have a support system. Luckily my husband is amazing and he takes a lot of the slack. My mother and my mother-in-law watch my kids when I work and when I need to study. If I didn’t have a support system …”
The fact that she started nursing school when her son was eight months old was hard, too.
“I missed first steps and first words,” she said. “My daughter is five now and she’s starting to learn what it takes to work hard and do something.”
She ranks nursing school among the hardest things she’s ever done – especially harder than her undergrad degree.
“Maybe it was because I had kids,” she laughed. “But the material and the load is harder. That’s OK. You want it to be hard for your nurses and make sure they’re smart and capable.”
“The tests are ridiculously hard. The critical thinking they want you to get into for the test.”
“It’s not fact-based. You know the facts, now apply the facts. The application of the knowledge was really tough.”
And she’s excited about a summer with her kids.
And as far as advice for those heading into nursing school?
“I would say make sure you have your priorities straight,” she said. “Know that nursing school should take priority. You’re going to have to miss some things and that’s OK. And don’t give up. Keep pushing.”