Feature Stories 2024: Kevin Valentine '24: Nursing major finds his calling

Feature Stories 2024: Kevin Valentine '24: Nursing major finds his calling
Kevin Valentine '24: Nursing major finds his calling

A team player, he plans to become an operating room nurse

When he was in high school, Kevin Valentine '24 thought about pursuing an action-packed career as an FBI or CIA agent. But life can change on a dime, and Valentine's mom’s brush with breast cancer when he was 16 years old opened his eyes to a whole new career. After seeing the care she received at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Valentine chose a different career, one still filled with plenty of action—nursing. 

"Dana-Farber saved her life," said Valentine with gratitude. "Those oncology nurses are a different breed; their human connection was out of this world. It was tough on my mom and our family, but it opened my eyes to nursing. 

"I have always been interested in how the body works. Due to my family's experience and seeing the dedication and compassion exhibited by the healthcare professionals during those challenging times left a profound impact on me," Valentine said.

His older brother, Patrick, was similarly impacted and is now a cardiac rehab nurse at UMass Chan Medical School.   

As he prepares to graduate from UMass Dartmouth's College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Valentine, of Spencer, MA, reflected on his experiences and the challenges he overcame in nursing school, culminating with his selection as the student speaker for this year's White Coat Ceremony.

UMassD experience

Why did you choose to attend UMass Dartmouth?

"I chose to attend UMass Dartmouth since it is relatively close to home and offers a high-quality education at an affordable price. I have always said that the education I got here is a great deal compared to other schools." 

What do you think makes UMassD special? 

"What makes UMassD special is the close-knit community shared between the students and staff on campus." 

What has been your experience learning from, and working with, faculty at UMassD?

"The faculty here have always been great. I have developed good relationships with just about every professor I have had, and they have always been there to support me and my learning when I needed them. You won't find better educators than those at UMass Dartmouth. 

"The nursing faculty has always been amazing. They're all so down-to-earth and welcoming. They know what it’s like to go through nursing school and will give you everything you need.  

"We were the first Covid class and came in as sophomores. The faculty recommended that we form study groups, which has been great. We study well together, and if we have a problem, we talk it out."

What did you enjoy most at UMassD? Do you have a particularly memorable experience?

"In my four years at UMassD, there have been many memorable experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. One experience that stands above them all was the Sophomore Rewind in fall 2021. My class couldn't have a full freshman year on campus due to the pandemic, so the university threw a great weekend-long event where I met some of my best friends. I've always been thankful for that event."

Student speaker Kevin Valentine '24
Kevin Valentine was selected as the student speaker for this year's White Coat Ceremony. He advised the sophomore nursing majors, who were just beginning their cinicals, to assume "a mantle of responsibility, compassion, and dedication" as they wear their white coats.

CNHS experience

Valentine served as a student leader for three years in the Student Leadership Academy, now known as the Student Leadership Alliance. "I helped freshman nursing students navigate their transition to their first year of college. I was a mentor and friend they could reach out to if they had any questions relating to the nursing program or about UMass Dartmouth in general."

Assistant Professor Valerie Seney taught Valentine as a freshman and a senior. "Kevin is wonderful. He has a great sense of humor and is empathetic, two attributes that will help in his nursing career," she said. "He has always been an attentive student who fully participated in class. It was great to watch him grow as a student throughout his four years here."

Tell us about one or more memorable experiences you've had as part of your education. 

"One of the more memorable experiences I've had here was the honor of being the student speaker at the White Coat ceremony for the sophomore nursing students. It was my first time speaking in public, and I spoke in front of peers and faculty I have known for a while. It was a testament to all the hard work I have put into this program finally paying off in one way or another."

At the ceremony last month, Valentine was introduced by Clinical Asst. Professor Michelle Glowny as "a hardworking, considerate, and thoughtful individual who aspires to touch the lives of the people he encounters. His determination and persistence in the face of challenges serve as a testament to his character.  Kevin's ability to inspire and lead by example has positively influenced his peers, encouraging them to strive for their best."

Valentine hopes he was a role model for first-year and sophomore nursing students. "I’ve always wanted to speak to students in a large forum and share my knowledge with them. I felt like I could give them advice they might need down the road."

Read about the White Coat Ceremony here. 

What are some of the challenges you faced?  

"Nursing is not the easiest subject to major in. It requires hard work, dedication, and a can-do attitude. As difficult as it seemed at times, I always knew that I had a great support system in my friends and faculty who were always willing and able to help. 

"The assistant director in the STEM Lab, Chris Peter, was great. She taught me what to study and how to focus on the most important information. I learned that every hour spent in class requires two hours of study outside of class. That was a big change for me. But I passed each semester and, this fall, I had my first straight-A semester ever."

The modern nursing labs also enhanced Valentine’s nursing education. "They are run so professionally, you think you are in the hospital. If an academic topic doesn’t make sense, you can go to the lab and do a hands-on simulation and it really helps reinforce the topic."

Valentine also encountered difficult situations in clinicals. In his first med-surg rotation, he took care of a patient with a tracheostomy and g-tube who couldn’t eat. "I stayed with him during my whole 8-hour shift. We talked about his life and diagnosis. We developed a trust that is not easily earned. Patients must know you’re in it 100% for them. I also cared for him on his discharge day, and he was so thankful.  

"When I saw how much my help and support meant to him, something clicked inside me, and I realized that nursing wasn't just a job for me—it was my calling. It was like finding my purpose, knowing that helping others during tough times is what I was meant to do."
In a maternity rotation, Valentine was in the delivery room when a single mother suffered an amniotic fluid embolism followed by seizures right after giving birth and had to be rushed to another hospital, leaving her baby behind with no family to care for her. "It was my first emergency, and it was scary," said Valentine. "I had never held a baby before, but I took care of that baby all day. Everything I was taught about infant care was right in front of me. When that baby made eye contact with me, it was a beautiful moment.
"These challenges have not only strengthened my resolve but have also taught me valuable lessons in resilience, adaptability, and empathy, which I believe will serve me well in my future endeavors as a healthcare professional."

Future plans

Do you plan to specialize in an area of nursing?

"I plan on specializing in operating room nursing. I always played sports, my mom works for the Worcester Red Sox, my brother is a nurse, and my dad is a firefighter, so we are all on teams. Being part of the operating room team would allow me to use my skills to assist patients and support the surgical team as they perform life-saving operations."

Valentine plans to work at a hospital in the Worcester, MA area.

Do you feel that UMassD has prepared you for your future? 

"UMassD has prepared me well for my future as a nurse and as a person. The nursing program provided me with a solid foundation of knowledge and practical skills necessary for real-life situations in the field. The support from faculty, staff, and the resources available at UMassD also played a crucial role in my development as a nursing professional. They gave me the confidence and competence needed to pursue my career goals with certainty."