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University of St. Thomas Graduates First Nursing Cohort in 25 Years

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University of St. Thomas Graduates First Nursing Cohort in 25 Years

This May 27 nursing students, including Elizabeth Ciocco, will be the first nursing students to graduate from the University of St. Thomas in nearly 25 years. 

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class="p1">Ciocco joins 298 undergraduates and 739 graduates at the University's 64th Commencement Ceremony at Reliant Stadium on May 17.

Ciocco enrolled at UST with plans to study biology in the pre-med track to become a doctor. After shadowing doctors and other medical professors, she found herself drawn to the nurse's role. Since then, Ciocco has become certified as a nursing assistant and worked as a nursing home, where she fell in love with the profession. She decided to specialize in pediatric oncology and hasn't looked back since.
"I had just joined the leukemia and lymphoma society and had just finished my first marathon with them and I met a little girl who had cancer," Ciocco said. "I had met other people with cancer but meeting this little girl was a reality check. From that point on I knew what I was going to do."

Ciocco has endured long days and nights to achieve that goal. She has learned to balance schoolwork and clinicals where she and other nursing students gained real-world experience in the field. On top of that, the young mother cares for her son, whom she had right before beginning the program.
 

"Our professors are very holistic in the way the educate us," Ciocco said. "It becomes tough to keep up with clinicals and studies, especially since some of us have families and children at home. A professor once told us 'If you can't take care of yourself then how are you going to take care of other people?'"

It wasn't just in her professors that Ciocco found support; the nursing community at large has proven to be very supportive.
  So supportive in fact that Ciocco was able to utilize numerous nursing scholarships to not only pay for school, but was also able to pay off student loans she had taken out before joining the nursing program, graduating debt-free.

With gradation on the horizon, Ciocco feels that her world has opened up to infinite possibility. While she just accepted a position in the pediatric unit at MD Anderson, she knows she would like to continue learning.

"Very few people realize how versatile nursing is," Ciocco said. "I could do research, teach, or become a nurse manager. I don't know yet because there is so much. I know I want to go back for my master's and possibly a doctorate in the future."

In the mean time, Ciocco looks forward to spending time with her two-year old son and preparing for a marathon or bike ride with the Lymphoma and Leukemia society.
  She also looks forward to watching the young nursing program grow.

"I can't wait to see what the program becomes over the years," Ciocco said. "The dean, associate dean, every single faculty and staff member have been amazing. I feel like we have struck gold."

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