Persistence Pays Off for WNMU Nursing Major

Nursing major Megan Custer is working on her second bachelor's degree at WNMU. She is pictured here during the filming of the Amazon Prime TV series "The College Tour."

© Western New Mexico University

The path toward a nursing degree has never been straightforward for nursing major Megan Custer (BAS ’22). “I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she said.

What she did know was that she enjoyed playing volleyball. “I got into sports when I was really young and have always kept that going,” she said, “It is not something anyone pushed on me; it was an option and I always liked it.”

When it came time to apply for college, the opportunity to keep playing was high on her priority list. “I wanted to find somewhere that would let me play in college because I knew it would be fun,” she said, “and I wanted the opportunity for a scholarship to help with my education.”

She chose Western New Mexico University and soon decided that nursing was the major and career for her.

Custer, though, was on the volleyball team and found balancing academics and athletics overwhelming. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting how she and her fellow students experienced their education. “It was too much. I just felt like I could not manage it all, and I found myself just missing the cutoff [grades] for nursing school.”

Custer was more than disappointed by the news. “I was crushed by this. I thought my dream of being a nurse was over,” she said. She found herself wondering if nursing was even the right path for her. “It felt like the whole world was crumbling down.”

But she was determined. “I decided that I shouldn’t just give up on [nursing] because I wasn’t able to manage my time during this odd circumstance.”

Because she had to wait to reapply to the nursing program, Custer spent her time wisely and earned a BAS in Rehabilitation Services. Her grades kept improving, which she attributes to the wide support network at WNMU.

“A lot of people on campus helped me,” said Custer, “Especially in the athletic office—they helped me get back on my feet.” Her second attempt to enter nursing was successful, and she is now immersed in her classes and clinicals.

She emphasized that what prepared her for her clinicals was the university’s clinical simulation lab. “I am able to recognize problems quicker. I am able to treat quicker,” she said, “It’s one thing to read everything in a textbook and to think ‘Oh, if someone is having an asthma attack, give them this inhaler’ … It is another to see the signs in real life, to hear someone wheezing, for example, to hear someone gasping for air.”

She described how practicing on the patient mannequins in the simulation lab gave her a more realistic sense of the urgency that often accompanies nursing care.

“It’s scary sometimes. Even though it is just a mannequin—it’s a simulation; it’s not real—but it feels real sometimes. I don’t want my patient to die or to have anything bad happen to them … You can feel the pressure of the situation, but it is also in a very safe environment.”

Custer said that she especially appreciates Instructor of Nursing Lorenzo Saenz’s approach to teaching the clinical simulation class. “He is super interactive with us, and [the class] is awesome.”

While Custer still feels stress about school, now, she says, “It’s a good stress. It is stressful to do good, to keep up with those standards.”

Custer said that she could not have achieved what she has without the help and advocacy of the faculty and staff. “The reason I love Western New Mexico University so much,” she said, “is because of all the people here who have helped to give me the opportunities I have to fulfill my dreams today.

In her sixth year at WNMU, Custer said that what stands out to her about her time at the university is how her character has developed. “Being a student is not my whole life,” she has realized, “Being an athlete is not my whole life. I am more than just these things that I do.”

Megan Custer is a featured student in the upcoming Amazon Prime TV episode of “The College Tour” that was filmed on campus in November.


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