Despite the long hours that entail a career in nursing, Mary Herendeen's decision to come to Case Western Reserve University and study at one of the top-ranked nursing schools was somewhat of an afterthought, as the Austinburg native has always had high expectations for herself on the hardwood.
Currently 14 games into her final season for the Case Western Reserve women's basketball team, Herendeen is having her best season ever, averaging 13.2 points per-game (7th in UAA), and has nailed 30 three-pointers (2nd in UAA) so far this season.
Everything seems to be coming together for Herendeen in her final season.
"I couldn't have asked for a better start to this season, especially since it's my senior year," Herendeen said. "We all just genuinely care about each other, which has been different in years past. The way we're bonding off the court is really affecting how we're playing on the court."
As a team, the Spartans (8-6, 1-2 UAA) have won seven out of their last ten games, including the team's University Athletic Association opener at Emory on Jan. 12 when they came away with a 76-72 victory.
Even though Herendeen and the Spartans are off to a great start, the senior is still realistic about the challenges that lie ahead of her this semester.
Case Western Reserve is home to the Frances Bolton School of Nursing, ranked the No. 1 nursing school in Ohio and the No. 4 among all private universities in the country, and with the Cleveland Clinic and Case Medical Center, a partnership between the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland, nearby, there are plenty of opportunities for Herendeen and other nursing students at the University to gain hands-on experience.
This semester, Herendeen will begin a preceptorship at Fairview Hospital in the surgical intensive care unit, where she will get hands-on experience and work a regular nurse's schedule. Balancing school and basketball is something Herendeen is used to, however.
"It's going to be pretty tough," Herendeen said. "I think the most difficult part will be managing time and getting all the required amount of hours, but I will have a lot more freedom than I did in clinicals and will get more individual attention because I'll be working one-on-one with someone. It's going to be a great experience."
Last summer was the first time Herendeen worked in a hospital outside of clinicals that all nursing students begin the first week of their freshman year. She completed an externship at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital and learned much more than she did during her clinicals three years ago.
"There is much more freedom there because you are with the same patients and nurses on a consistent basis, where in clinicals, you deal with so many different patients and nurses," Herendeen said. "Working with the same nurse helped me learn her habits and allowed me to develop my skills a lot more."
Unlike many college seniors that stress about a life and career after graduation, Herendeen is optimistic and hopeful because of the high demand and amount of job opportunities available to nurses throughout the United States.
"The nice thing about working in the medical field is that you can really go anywhere." Herendeen said. "I know a lot of people freak-out about where they want to go after they graduate. I'm stressing a little bit, but I'm not too worried because I know I'll find something."
After she graduates in May, Herendeen plans on working for two or three years before going to graduate school in order to become a nurse anesthetist. Whether or not she will stay in the Cleveland area is still up in the air.
But one thing that's for certain is that Herendeen will lead the Spartans on the hardwood for the next two months, two months in which the Spartans will face the toughest part of their schedule.
"Last year we would lose a lot of games down the stretch, but I think this year we know how to win close games," Herendeen said. "Playing all these teams in the UAA means we're going to have to get used to winning close games and finishing close games because there's no way we're going to blow out any of the teams in our conference."
The Spartans return home for Throwback Weekend February 15-17.
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