JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nurses. They're the caregivers, the hand-holders, the encouragers, the healers, the shoulder to cry on, the deliverer of good news. And in a job that often comes with little to no thanks, they're the heartbeat of a hospital.
So what makes Jacksonville University volleyball player Cristina Finan want to pursue a career in arguably one of the toughest jobs out there?
With many nurses, there is often a major life-altering event that happens to them or to their loved ones that sparks their interest in the profession. For Finan, her natural compassion and empathy led her to her selfless decision.
"I really want to help people. I figured out I wanted to be a nurse by process of elimination – thinking about everything that I didn't want to do – and narrowed it down to nursing."
With her mind made up about a future career path, the Weston, Fla. native had one more decision to make – where to study.
"First, I was looking for a good nursing school in Florida," explained Finan. "The second thing on the list was ok, am I going to be able to play volleyball there? I found JU and it had everything that I was looking for in a school. Being able to do both [nursing and play volleyball] is the perfect deal."
Along with her regular classes, Finan is required to complete 900 hours of clinical duty rotations to graduate.
"I'm not sure how Tina balances all she has going on," stated Head Coach Julie Darty. "Besides nursing, she is also our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) rep and is one of the most even-keeled, level-headed people that I know."
While it's no secret that being a student-athlete comes with many challenges, the responsibility of learning in the hands-on environment that comes with clinical rotations adds an extra hurdle for Finan. With the seemingly endless hours of classes, clinicals, practices, and games, figuring out a support system was important for Finan to maintain a balance.
"Having a coach like Julie who understands that your education comes first and volleyball second," said Finan. "She's cool about if I have a clinical, missing a practice is fine. She's really great about knowing that it's hard for me and she helps me balance it all.
"I'm always busy; sometimes we'll be on the road for the whole weekend and I'll have a test on Monday. I'll be up late Sunday studying, so I have to figure it out. I don't get a lot of sleep; that's one of the biggest challenges. After doing it all of last semester, I just got into a rhythm and I really focus on time management."
In spite of her hectic schedule, it's clear to anyone who has seen the Dolphins' number nine play that her calm demeanor carries over from the classroom to the court.
"I can tell a lot about the game itself and the pulse of the team when I look at Tina. She is kind of that gauge and when she speaks, people listen," explained Darty. "She's not the type to just talk to hear herself talk, but when she speaks up you know it's something she truly believes in and believes others need to hear."
Finan's advice to other student-athletes thinking about majoring in nursing, and her key to success, is simple – plan ahead.
"Take it week by week and at the beginning of each week, plan out your whole week – what you have to study at what times – in comparison with when you have practices, lift, and games."
While her collegiate playing career is winding down, there's just one thing Coach Darty wants people to know about Finan:
"Everyone within our program, both indoor and beach, respects her and looks to her for guidance, support, and encouragement. She is one of those people who you always know what you are going to get – she's competitive and gets after it, but she is someone people look to when they need to be reminded that they are ok and that they can do it."