By Kimmie Collins
Jan 27, 2021
Indiana State University senior Sha’keyah Bell drums her fingers against the steering wheel, patiently waiting for the light to turn green. The morning sun is just beginning to peek above the horizon, but because of her early-morning clinical, Bell’s six-year-old son is already at daycare. In an hour or so, a school bus will rumble by and shuttle him to first grade.
Bell smiles to herself, grateful that her son is now in school. He was two when she started college right after high school, and finding childcare was one of the hardest parts of her college journey. “When I first got here, it was just me and my son,” she remembers. “The beginning was definitely hard because he was younger, but as time went on it got easier and easier. It was very time-consuming trying to get him familiar with childcare, get him familiar with school, and then with me being in school full-time as well.”
As a nursing student, her schoolwork takes even more time than a typical college student because she spends several hours per week completing simulations and clinicals. She’s gained hands-on experience for her career and seen a true glimpse of what the profession entails. “One of my favorite things that I have experienced in clinical was a code because I was able to see how the nurses respond and how everyone in the hospital comes together for the patient,” she observes. “I just like helping people. I just get a thrill knowing that I’m helping somebody or know that I’m making someone feel better.”
Bell especially enjoys caring for the geriatric community. Her love of nursing developed when she worked in home healthcare in high school and deepened when she recently served as a patient care technician at Union Hospital. “I’m a quiet person. It helped me break being so quiet and waiting for the other person to say something first,” she remarks. “With patients, you have to reach out to them, you have to let them know you’re here. It helped me get more familiar with the hospital setting and how everybody in the hospital contributes.”
Changing out of her scrubs, Bell checks her planner to see what the rest of the day will hold. She has class on campus for the next several hours, and though it may seem daunting to have over four hours of class, she is excited. Some of her favorite memories at State have involved exploring more about her field or embracing the relationships that nursing has helped her build. Her advisor and professor, Heather Anderson, has had Bell prepare for her upcoming classes and career. “I’ve just always been able to reach out to her with anything,” Bell says.
Bell also developed a strong camaraderie with another of her nursing professors, Emily Cannon. “She reminds me of myself,” Bell laughs. “She wants us to succeed as nurses. You can tell by someone’s body language when they really care and they really want you to succeed.”
By the time Bell’s classes are over for the day, it’s time for her to collect her son. Her classes lasted longer than his did, so another school bus transported him to the Boys and Girls Club where he’s waiting patiently. He chatters about his day at school, and, when they get home, he takes a shower while Bell makes dinner.
Bell spends the evening helping her son with his homework before she works on her own, replicating the supportive family that raised her. “My grandparents have always been there every step of the way. They work as well, but they still let me know that my education is their number one priority,” she says. “Whatever I need – help with my son or just financially – they try to do the best they can to help me so I can be successful.”
“My aunties helped me as well. If I need them, they’ll be there, if they can,” she adds. “My mom helps as much as she can. I’m the oldest of seven. She still has a lot that she has to deal with, so I try not to be too much on her, but whenever I do need her she’s there as well. I have a good support system.” As she tucks her son into bed, Bell thinks longingly of the weekend, when she can return home to Indianapolis for some much-needed time with her family.
Bell’s worked on her homework throughout the day when she found little pockets of time, so she only has a little left to finish after her son falls asleep. “A lesson that I had to learn is that you have to be patient,” she explains. “You have to understand the path that you’re going on. You have to just be as organized and as motivated as possible.” Her own form of organization, a sharp bing! from her phone’s alarm, signals the end of her allotted study time for the evening. She schedules an end to each night so that she can be on top of her game again in the morning.
“You can’t overwork yourself,” she notes. “That’ll bring you down and you won’t even know it.”
She showers quickly and snuggles under her covers, content with the day’s work. Despite her exhaustion, her last thoughts of the day energize her for the next morning. “In my life, I’ve always wanted to go the furthest that I can go. I want more for myself and my son. Each day, I’m doing something to get me to where I really want to be long-term, and it is one step closer to the finish line.”