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Determination and Grit: Savannah’s Story

Savannah Salvesen decided early that she wanted to be in the healthcare industry when she grew up. That was going to be the pathway for her life.

She was six.

The event that sparked this ambition was a moment of clumsiness on her part. In her rush to get to the piano in her grandparents’ home, Savannah tripped on a decorative goose and bashed her head against the edge of the piano bench.

With her head bleeding everywhere—and in the midst of thinking she would be in so much trouble for making such a mess—her grandpa scooped her up and calmly took her to the hospital. She remembers seeing her reflection in his glasses and thinking the cut looked so interesting, and watching the stitches take place in the reflection as well.

From that moment on she wanted to be in healthcare.

If you haven’t realized yet: Savannah is a planner. She sets goals and works until she completes them.

Savannah’s determination runs through her whole life: she married her high school sweetheart; she decided she wanted to be in the healthcare profession when she was a young child; she’s always wanted to have and raise children.

Life likes to throw obstacles in the way of all best-laid plans, however, and Savannah needed grit and determination to bring her goals to fruition.

When Savannah went to college at Utah State University, she was ready to become a nurse. She wanted the shortest, most direct route there. Upon talking to a counselor, she was told the most direct route would be to get her bachelor’s degree first. That seemed strange to her, but when questioned, the counselor assured her that there was no way she was going to get into nursing school without the degree.

Savannah began to pursue her bachelor’s degree.

For several years she worked on an exercise science degree at Utah State, despite consistently questioning “Is this really the best way?” While driving one day (and with two classes left to finish her bachelor’s at Utah State), Savannah saw a billboard for Nightingale College.

She thought, “This is interesting. I’ll give them a call and just see.”

Expecting to be told that she had so many things that she needed before she was able to even begin pursuing a degree for nursing, Savannah called Nightingale and was told she could start in the next semester—which was going to begin in two months’ time.

Savannah was stunned but excited that she had the access to start as soon as possible. Everything fell into place for her to earn her nursing degree at Nightingale.

Savannah started her Nightingale education in January (after her call with Jeana in November), and completed her degree in just 16 months—meeting her goal of passing her classes with straight As. It was difficult, but she overcame both school and personal obstacles.

The hardest part of nursing school for Savannah was that while she was at Nightingale her husband was put on active duty. That meant he was living in Alabama for most of Savannah’s schooling; on top of that they were battling infertility—trying to work out time to be in the same state around clinicals and nursing school was next to impossible.

Having flown through nursing school, when Savannah went to schedule her NCLEX she found there was a two month wait to take the test in Utah. That didn’t fit into her plan—she had planned on taking the NCLEX as quickly as possible in order to spend the summer with her husband in Alabama where she would continue fertility treatments and apply for nursing jobs back in Utah.

To get past the two months’ wait in Utah for the NCLEX, Savannah and her friend checked the wait times for the NCLEX in Wyoming. To their delight, they learned they could take the NCLEX only five days after graduation.

Despite some doubt from friends and family about them passing the NCLEX, because of how closely to graduation they’d scheduled it (to which Savannah responded that she’d gotten all A’s in school, she should be ready to pass the NCLEX), they both decided to take the chance.

The two friends scheduled their NCLEX test date and drove eight hours to Wyoming to take their tests, studying the entire way.

They got there, slept, and went to take the test.

When Savannah’s friend took her test, she had eight “select all that apply” questions—the most dreaded question on the NCLEX. When Savannah took hers, she got question after question that were “select all that apply.”

After 31 “select all that apply” questions, Savannah felt surely there wasn’t any chance of her passing. At question 75, she was nervous to continue on—if she passed, the test would end, but if she was failing miserably the test would also end.

Gathering up her courage, Savannah clicked next, and the test ended.

When she and her friend reached the parking lot, they tried to re-register for the test. The trick is that if you can’t re-register for the test, you have unofficially passed your NCLEX.

Neither Savannah nor her friend were able to register, so they were hopeful that they had passed.

The next day Savannah moved to Alabama to spend the summer with her husband, to hopefully build a family and apply for nursing jobs back in Utah.

Where she waited with bated breath and mounting anxiety to find out if she’d passed the NCLEX.

Several days later after her friend’s name had made it onto the licensed list and Savannah’s was nowhere to be found, and when panic was beginning to set in, she finally called the office.

The person who answered the phone told her, “Oh yeah, your license looks like it was loaded three days ago. Yeah, you passed!”

It turned out that Savannah’s license was on the list under a misspelled last name.

And now, after working as a nurse for years in some of the best places and under some of the best mentors, Savannah is back full-time at Nightingale. She started as a grade auditor, and as the need at Nightingale has gotten bigger so has her team: she now oversees a team of 25 Evaluators. She has always wanted to come back to education, to give back and help new nurses realize their dreams the way hers have been realized.

Savannah is living in Northern Utah with her husband—who is still in the armed forces—and twin boys (who joined the family after their long battle with infertility), and she’s finally in the spot she wanted to be; she is where her dreams and goals and hard work overcoming roadblocks have brought her. She says that Nightingale was an answer to just what she needed at just the right time, and not having to wait to get in was perfect for her.

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