FHSU University Relations and Marketing
By Diane Gasper-O’Brien
HAYS, Kan. — Taylor Kisner’s destination of choice where to attend college was just a few miles down the road from her hometown. In the blink of an eye, the Ellis County native is set to embark on a lifetime career.
Taylor graduated from Fort Hays State University in December with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a career path she chose nearly 10 years ago.
“It’s great to see it all paid off,” said Taylor, a 2011 graduate of Victoria High School. “I wasn’t ready for it be over this quick. It went faster than I ever thought it would.”
Taylor had watched her mom go through the challenges of pursuing a nursing education back when Taylor was in grade school.
While Janine — now a registered nurse at Hays Medical Center — didn’t persuade her oldest child to follow in her footsteps, Mom did have a direct impact on Taylor’s career choice.
“I saw all the work and dedication my mom put into school and how it benefitted her,” Taylor said. “I’m a person who likes to help others, and I saw the good she brought to people’s lives as a nurse, how rewarding it was.”
When it came time to choose a college, Taylor — like many high school students with a college nearby — thought she wanted to get away from home. So she checked out Wichita State University and Newman University, which both have renowned nursing programs.
But Taylor, an outstanding track athlete, was recruited to run for the Tigers just 10 miles from home. She toured FHSU’s nursing program and decided Fort Hays State was the best choice for her after all.
With three young children at home, Janine started her nursing career through an online program, then finished at the Hays campus of North Central Kansas Technical College before beginning work at HaysMed.
Now, her daughter — who had wanted to go away to college — not only received her degree from the university in her own back yard but will join her mom as an employee of HaysMed in February.
“The tech college was great for Mom, but for me, Fort Hays State was the better fit,” Taylor said. “I wanted to get my bachelor’s right away because a lot of hospitals now are requiring RNs to have bachelor’s degrees, so it worked better this way.”
Now, Taylor is forever a part of a program on the rise. Both FHSU’s RN-to-BSN and master’s online programs have garnered national acclaim the past several years.
Kathleen Ward, associate professor of nursing, has been a part of FHSU’s solid nursing foundation for a long time, in a variety of ways. A native of Hays, Ward graduated with her bachelor’s in nursing in 1986, then pursued two additional nursing degrees from her alma mater. After working at HaysMed for about 20 years, Ward joined the FHSU nursing faculty 10 years ago.
“We’ve had excellent faculty for the most part over the years, and we’re innovative, offering clinical simulations that enhance the student learning,” said Ward, acting chair of the nursing department. “The medical field is constantly changing, and we have people here at Fort Hays State who are committed to making our next generation of nurses the best they can be.”
That never-ending change is a major factor that drew Taylor to the medical field.
“I like the constant change. That’s a huge motivation,” she said. “You have to keep being your best. There’s never room for complacency. You always have to be at the top of your game.”
Even while staying close to home, Taylor has had the opportunity to spread her wings.
FHSU nursing students are given the opportunity for clinical work at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita and the Larned State Hospital as well as HaysMed and Via Christi Village Assisted Living in Hays. And last summer, Taylor was selected to participate in an international nursing experience on a trip to France, a program that Ward started for FHSU students back in 2009.
“My biggest thing in life is to push myself to be a better person and do something out of my comfort zone,” Taylor said. “The trip to France definitely was out of my comfort zone. But I was able to see how blessed we are to have the facilities we do. It was totally worth it.”
Despite keeping up with the rigors of a nursing program, Taylor also was active on campus. She was nominated to — and inducted into — Sigma Theta Tau, a prestigious international honor society of nursing. She also was chosen as one of the on-campus recipients of the Stroup Award at graduation. The award, given for outstanding clinical performance, community involvement, and academic achievement, was created in 1993 in honor of Leora B. Stroup, the founder of FHSU’s nursing program.
Taylor said the total experience at Fort Hays State was something she will always fall back on, including leadership activities and research she was able to be a part of.
“Our instructors are so awesome,” Taylor said. “They all wanted us to know the content so well and wanted us to be successful. And there is still contact with them even when we’re done with the program. It was a great experience, and I’m so glad I chose Fort Hays State.”