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Lily Salinas dreamt of becoming a nurse since she first stepped foot on Valparaiso University’s campus as a freshman, but she never imagined how soon the training she received from her professors would be tested.

During Salinas’ junior year she took part in clinical rotations at a local hospital as a part of the requirements to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She had just arrived for her rotation one morning when everything she’d been learning shifted from theoretical to real-world.

“I heard someone yelling, ‘Help! Help! Help!’,” Salinas said. When she realized it was her patient, she and her professor, Annie Trapp, rushed to the patient’s bed.

“We both witnessed the patient having a seizure before completely passing out,” Salinas recalled.

The woman had turned pale and cold. Salinas readied herself to perform CPR, but when she and Trapp checked the patient’s paperwork, they found that the woman had opted not to be resuscitated.

“Professor Trapp said, ‘You’re going to have to pronounce her’,” said Salinas. “I just thought, ‘I can’t believe it. I’m a junior. We never get these kinds of critical patients at the junior level.’ ”

But Salinas remembered her training and remained composed.

“Lily was outstanding,” said Trapp. “She was calm and comforting. She displayed no outward signs of apprehension but rather was a rock in the transition.”

Then the two noticed that the woman had begun breathing. Again, Salinas’ education had taught her exactly what to do.

“I put oxygen on her,” Salinas recalled. “The whole time I was there I was monitoring her vital signs, looking at her temperature, her heart rate, her blood pressure.”

Salinas cared for the woman until she regained consciousness. She also called the patient’s family, and Trapp, who is a former hospice nurse, walked her through what to say.

“I worked for more than seven years with the Visiting Nurse Association of Porter County providing home health care to chronically and terminally ill persons,” Trapp said. “This background influences the way I teach nursing students in that I encourage them to respect and honor the individual even if the person is unresponsive. It is about maintaining the integrity of the person, who they were before disease ravaged their physical body.”

The experience made clear to Salinas just how important the lessons she has learned in the classroom will be in her career.

“You realize why your professors are so hard on you, why they want you to know so much,” she said. “I really have learned a lot from the professors on campus. I’m really glad I came here. I’ve gotten a lot out of it.”

“Lily will most certainly use this experience and will lead other nurses who are less comfortable in dealing with death and dying,” Trapp shared. “Her genuine personality, empathy, and calming presence foster therapeutic relationships in a very natural way.”