Nursing Grad, ROTC Cadet Turns Heartbreak Into Triumph

Posted: December 22, 2021

Yuri Maisel in uniform at Buell Armory. Pete Comparoni | UK Photo. 

COVID-19 has taught us many things, including the power of nurses. Yuri Maisel is graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Nursing with the determination to show others the kind of care she knows can make a difference.

Maisel wanted to be a nurse for the challenge. Each day, nurses face something different. Not only do they know the ins and outs of patient care, but they also serve as an advocate and confidant for their patients and families. More than anything, Maisel wanted to help others.

“Between the hands-on patient care approach and the ability to make a positive difference in someone’s life, it was an obvious choice for me,” said Maisel. “I feel like there is no better career than one where you have the opportunity to take a negative experience or time in someone’s life and make it a little bit better.”

Maisel’s college experience wasn’t an average one. As a first-generation student, learning at a higher education level was a difficult adjustment. The beginning of her college career was filled with lessons, inside and outside of the classroom. Nursing students start on the pre-nursing track, then they apply to be accepted into the nursing program where they receive the bulk of their training.

In addition to school, Maisel became an Air Force cadet in the University of Kentucky Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). She was inspired to do this by her family members who served before her. While juggling another involvement on top of her schoolwork was a risk, Maisel said she wouldn’t change it for the world.

“It is an environment where you are constantly challenged to think critically and push yourself physically, and everyone is there to better themselves in some way,” said Maisel. “I knew that I wanted to surround myself with individuals who are highly motivated and committed to a purpose bigger than themselves because it would allow me to grow as a person and leader.”

It was that motivation that led Maisel to be accepted into the nursing program ahead of her junior year. While preparing for the challenge ahead, Maisel and her family experienced a great loss. Her mother passed away just two months before the school year began. Heartbreaking as it was, Maisel said the care her mother received in her time of need reaffirmed her decision to study nursing.

“To this day I remember the way my mom’s nurse made me feel,” said Maisel. “I know that I now have the opportunity to provide a sense of comfort and peace to patients and their families, just like my mother’s nurse did, and to me there is no greater honor.”

Maisel began nursing school with the memory of her mother leading her every step of the way. At times she struggled, but with reminders of how hard she’d worked to get there, there was no chance she was giving up.

When she reflects on the long nights in the library, or the hours of memorization prepping for clinicals, she is reminded of her strong connections within the college that carried her through. Specifically, she developed a close relationship with her pre-nursing advisor, Jennifer Sherwood.

“Jennifer is everything a good college advisor should be,” said Maisel. “Genuine, supportive and realistic. She had a knack for making me feel supported when classes inevitably became challenging and validated me when I expressed my feelings.”

Most students stop interacting with their pre-nursing advisors, since their main purpose is to help you plan your course schedule to meet your goal of admission to the program. Maisel was so grateful to Sherwood, and to all members of the College of Nursing faculty and staff for inspiring students even when it’s tough.

Being a nursing student during a global pandemic, a cadet in ROTC and a first-generation student made Maisel’s UK experience a unique one. She says she’s better for it.

“My experience at UK was shaped by all the wonderful people and opportunities I encountered as a nursing student and a cadet,” said Maisel. “I will always look back on my experience here fondly because it has provided a wealth of opportunities for me to learn and grow.”

This story was written for and appeared in UKNOW by Grace Colville