Alumna and current student Natalie Nichols strives to treat her patients like family

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Portrait of Natalie Nichols.

Although her love for art inspired her to become a graphic designer, Natalie Nichols discovered her true calling to be in the nursing field and switched professions.

“I was inspired to go into nursing when my mother had cancer. Her nurses at Beaumont Dearborn (now Corewell Health, Dearborn) were beyond amazing,” said Nichols. “While my sisters and I were visiting our mother, they would stop in throughout their shift to check in on her. Not only did her current nurse do hourly rounds but past nurses that had my mother as a patient while she was there came into her room to say ‘hi’ and see if she needed anything.”

HFC instructors train nurses to be their future colleagues

Born in Royal Oak and raised in Dearborn, Nichols is the middle of three daughters. She has been married to Robert for 15 years. She has a stepson and a granddaughter. An alumna of Fordson High School, Nichols began her education at HFC (then Henry Ford Community College), where she earned her associate degree in fine arts. She transferred to Eastern Michigan University and earned her bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

“I decided to go back to school a couple of years ago to pursue my true passion in helping people through nursing,” said Nichols. “I went back to HFC to continue my education because I enjoyed my experience there when I did my fine arts degree.”

Nichols is a student in HFC’s renowned Nursing Program. She is a member of the Henry Ford II Honors Program and the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society. She is also a member of the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Student Nursing Association (SNA), where she is the activity coordinator.

Nichols will graduate from HFC in the spring, earning her associate degree in nursing. From there, she will either transfer to the University of Michigan-Flint or return to EMU to finish her second bachelor’s degree, this time in nursing.

“HFC is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to pursue a nursing career,” said Nichols. “The instructors are very knowledgeable in their subjects, always answering the students’ questions and are just an email or phone call away. As the SNA faculty advisor Christie-Marie Buck said in a speech during the last nursing pinning ceremony, she is training us to be her future colleagues.”

Becoming a confident student nurse

“Natalie is a diligent and dedicated student, who not only has done well academically and also is officer in the SNA,” said Buck. “Natalie embodies a passion for learning and a commitment to nursing.”

Nichols is a nursing extern at Corewell Health Taylor Hospital in the Intermediate Care (IMC) unit. This externship has been an invaluable experience, allowing her to get hands-on training alongside an experienced nurse during a 12-hour shift.

“When I’m there, any nurse on my unit will grab me when they are doing a test on a patient that doesn’t come up often. They answer all my questions, teach me what to look out for and what we should do next for the patient. Hands-on training is helping me become a confident student nurse,” she explained.

At Corewell Taylor, Nichols reports to HFC Nursing Instructor Nancy Borkin. She also had Borkin in her medical surgical class and considers her a mentor.

“She has made a huge impact on my life. She has a way of making complicated material a little less complicated,” explained Nichols. “For clinicals, she made sure we knew why our patients were getting medications and what labs and what the parameters were to have them safely take their medications. HFC instructors really push how important our job as a nurse is to advocate for our patients. Every time we go into a patient’s room is another opportunity to educate our patients. We give them updated information about their medications and illness to help them make their own decisions.”

Nichols continued: “When we get orders from their doctor, we are there to make sure that the new orders are safe for the patient to take. We let their doctors know their wishes and are their voice when they don’t have one. Before we headed home from clinicals, Ms. Borkin would always go through our care plans that we would come up for our patients that day. We would talk about what brought them into the hospital, what we are doing for them while they are here, and what we need to do to help them leave the hospital.”

“A student I would love to clone”

Borkin is very proud of Nichols.

“I can tell you Natalie is a student I would love to clone,” said Borkin. “She is a hard worker, asks great questions that show she is critically thinking – a very important quality for a nurse – and she goes above and beyond to make sure she does well in her courses. I had her for clinicals, and she is great with patients and never sits down. You don't have to worry about her doing her job because she does her job and then helps others when she can. She is a great team player, which another very important quality for a nurse.”

In December, Nichols was one of six HFC nursing students to participate in the public announcement of a partnership between HFC and Corewell Health’s Nurse Immersive Clinical and Employment program. The first of its kind, this program guarantees employment at Corewell for HFC nursing students who meet the requirements. This partnership will establish a sustainable pipeline of highly qualified, career-ready nursing graduates to serve patients in Corewell medical facilities throughout Southeast Michigan.

In Nichols’ case, her nursing externship will become a full-time position when she graduates in May.

“I remember receiving an email asking me if I was interested in this opportunity at the end of last semester. I remember being on cloud nine when I got to be at the press conference with the President of HFC, Russ Kavalhuna. That’s when I learned that I was one of six students chosen to be part of the student panel during a press conference,” said Nichols. “This partnership will take away so much stress from nursing students finding a job after graduating. I am hoping to be able to work full-time while attending online classes at either EMU or UM-Flint to earn my bachelor’s degree in nursing.”

Nichols’ career goal is making a positive impact in the lives of her patients.

“One of the hundreds of amazing things about a nursing degree is the ability to change what unit you want to work in,” she said. “The best part of being in the nursing field is being there for a patient on what could be one of their worst days and trying to make it a little brighter; it’s a true honor. I have had patients tell me that they have friends who are like family, and that’s how I strive to treat my patients. I want someone to care for my family and loved ones like they would their own family.”

Borkin suggested to Nichols that she should return to HFC to teach nursing. She was honored to hear that.

“I will need a dozen years to be half as good as Ms. Borkin is as an instructor and mentor,” said Nichols. “We will see what the future holds.”


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