Feature Stories 2019: Ed Collins ’19: Military service provides solid training for future nurse

College of Nursing student and U.S. Army veteran Ed Collins standing in Library staircase
Photo credit: Tailyn Clark ’19
Feature Stories 2019: Ed Collins ’19: Military service provides solid training for future nurse
Ed Collins ’19: Military service provides solid training for future nurse

U.S. Army veteran enjoys team collaboration of ICU nursing

After serving in the U.S. Army for five years and completing two deployments to Afghanistan, Sgt. Edward Collins ’19 was ready for a new career. Having served his country, Collins wanted to continue serving in another capacity.

Part of Collins’ mandatory infantry training was combat medical care, where he learned and practiced CPR, tourniquet use, initiating and maintaining IVs, wound management, triage, and casualties.

Nursing became that “other capacity.” Collins enrolled in the College of Nursing at UMass Dartmouth through the College Now/START Program for its reputation as a highly competitive nursing program and “to receive the best possible education,” he said.

Mentorship in intensive care convinced Collins that nursing was right for him

It would take nearly four years for Collins to be convinced that nursing was the right career for him. During this last semester, he was placed in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, MA for his senior mentorship with a practicing nurse.

“I fell in love with nursing. The experience in intensive care challenged me and helped me grow as a young nurse. I enjoyed the complexities of the patients’ illnesses and the critical thinking it required to provide care for them and their families,” Collins said.

Distinguished soldier and student

Collins served in the U.S. Army from 2009-2014 and was stationed at Fort Campbell, KY with the 101st Airborne Division. He was assigned to an infantry company that specialized in reconnaissance, small unit tactics, and personnel recovery.

He graduated from some of the Army’s most prestigious schools including Airborne, Air Assault, and Pathfinder School. He received the Combat Infantry Badge and was named Soldier of the Year for his battalion by first completing a grueling physical competition that included a 12-mile ruck march and an interview by a board of high-ranking non-commissioned officers. After being named Soldier of the Month and Quarter, Collins competed again for Solider of the Year and won.

He distinguished himself as a student by being named to the Dean’s List for six semesters and the Chancellor’s List twice. The Berkley, MA native also received the Talent Merit Scholarship.

Ed Collins '19 on patrol in Afghanistan wearing Army fatigues in the desert
Sgt. Ed Collins '19 on patrol following a night raid mission in Afghanistan while serving the U.S. Army..

Military background provided discipline, perseverance, and leadership training

“My experiences in the College of Nursing exceeded my expectations,” Collins said. He has completed clinical rotations at several area hospitals in medical-surgical units, pediatrics, psychiatric, community health, and progressive care. He observed surgeries and the births of newborns.

Collins loved the team environment and support in the ICU. During his training, Collins bonded with a 96-year-old patient who often told him that he was her favorite nurse and that he was going to be a great nurse. “That reassured me that I was where I was supposed to be,” he said.

He salutes the College of Nursing faculty for their eagerness to help students succeed. “The professors expect a lot from us as students, but it is good training,” Collins said. “Coming from a military background, I enjoy and appreciate the rigors of training because you will only be that much better when it is done. Nursing is a serious profession that involves people’s lives.”

Former Navy Lt. and Assistant Professor Jennifer Viveiros was especially supportive of Collins. “Ed is a wonderful student nurse.  He consistently demonstrates the utmost professionalism and commitment to learning.  He possesses exceptional critical thinking and communication skills.”   

Collins’ military background also provided him with something else nursing students need —perseverance. “The skills I learned in the military helped me tremendously. Because of the Army, I am a firm believer that you can do anything you set your mind to,” he said.

After graduation, Collins will prepare for the NCLEX licensing exam and plans to practice as an intensive care nurse. He is also considering becoming a certified nurse anesthetist.

“My time in the Army allowed me to grow and mature as a man; it taught me valuable skills like leadership, time management, and communication. It also instilled in me a drive to succeed in whatever I do.”