UNMC College of Nursing energizes, empowers student to make direct impact

Clayton Harris is a first-year BSN student studying at UNMC's Norfolk Division.

Clayton Harris has always been an extrovert.

He knew from the time he began his first job in high school at Subway that he had a knack for working with people. Now, he’s swapped out subs for scrubs to make a difference in Nebraska’s health care field by joining the next generation of the state’s nursing workforce.

Harris is a first-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing student studying at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Norfolk Division. Born and raised in David City, NE, Harris knew he wanted to become the first in his family to pursue higher education. Even before he took his first step on a college campus, Harris knew he wanted to pursue a career in healthcare.

“Being around people all day really energizes me,” Harris said. “I think nursing is the highest form of customer service that’s out there. It allows you to be very personable with other people, as well as just being a source of knowledge whenever they need something.”

After completing his nursing pre-requisites at Wayne State College, Harris took the next step in his nursing career at UNMC’s Norfolk division. He highlighted the college’s culture, saying students are encouraged to approach new challenges head one without fear of failure.

“It’s okay to make mistakes,” he said. “They use that as positive reinforcement to help us grow as students. I think UNMC just does a really great job in fostering that kind of culture.”

When Harris graduates in May 2025, he hopes to use his degree to address a growing shortfall. According to the Nebraska Center for Nursing, the state will experience a workforce shortage of over 5,000 nurses by 2025. 73 of Nebraska’s 93 counties have less than the national average ratio of registered nurses to patients.

He plans on returning to rural Nebraska to make a direct impact in addressing the nursing shortfall, all while helping those who mean the most to him.

“I like smaller communities a little bit more because you can get to know the people in the community a lot faster,” he said. “These are also areas of need, so I just really want to go back and help out rural communities.”

Harris knows the impact donor support has on himself and his peers within the College of Nursing. Whether supporting scholarship opportunities or the variety of other funds spread throughout the school’s five campuses, Harris said donors can play a direct role in impacting the next generation of the state’s nursing workforce.

“No matter where you go for college education, there is going to be that financial barrier and it can just be hard to push through that for some students,” Harris said. “Giving back to the College of Nursing is a great way to support future generations.”

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