Having dealt with heartbreaking family tragedies, Newman University nursing student Teresa Bush believes that God has placed her in the nursing field for a specific purpose.
“I base my life on integrity, and I knew if I could just get somebody to listen to who I was and why I wanted to become a nurse, I could get into a good program that would take me where I wanted to go,” Bush said.
From Bush’s initial nursing program application and interview, Director of Nursing Teresa Vetter recognized potential right away.
“Each of us learns and grows from our life experiences,” Vetter said. “Teresa’s experiences have made her have great empathy to what others are experiencing, and with that comes an ability to focus toward providing patients with the best support possible.”
For Bush, the wrenching life-and-death tragedies she has experienced and her deep faith in God have left her determined to help others at their most vulnerable times.
Forming a family
Growing up with a mother who worked as an emergency room nurse, Bush was often told that she should become a nurse herself. Bush knew she wanted to help others in some capacity, but decided to follow her love and interest for psychology.
“Psychology was one of those things that was exciting,” Bush said. “I love how the brain works, and trying to figure out how and why people are the way they are was fascinating to me.”
When Bush was an undergraduate psychology student at Kansas State University in the late 1990s, she met her husband, Mark, who was in the military at Fort Riley. They married in 1999, and her career was put on hold when they later found out she was pregnant with twin boys. Mark also left the military and began working for a veterinarian clinic.
After having the boys, Bush decided to finish what she started. She re-enrolled at Kansas State and would drive from Derby, Kansas, to Manhattan three days a week for classes. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2001 — the same year as 9/11.
The tragic event prompted Bush’s husband to re-enlist in the military. Bush also respected what the military stood for and put her psychology degree to use by working as a family readiness support assistant.
“During this time, the war was in the beginning stages,” Bush said. “I was now a mom of three trying to figure out how to balance my emotions of my husband being deployed while helping other spouses/parents and soldiers who were getting deployed. I believed in our military, and I knew that what I was doing would be a tremendous help to others.”
The first soldier who was injured in Mark’s unit brought reality close to home.
“I knew that I was there to help serve others and be there in their time of need, and that is what I did,” Bush said. “You throw all your feelings aside for the good of others and drive forward, no matter how hard it is. God places you where he wants you, and I believe that with all my heart.”
Mark continued to deploy over the years, and the family eventually had the opportunity to move to Germany. They enjoyed their time overseas together until Mark got cancer and their daughter attempted suicide.
“Dealing with cancer, my husband knew that my daughter needed more help than the German economy could give her, so we flew her back to the United States,” Bush explained.
She left her two sons in Germany and came home with her daughter, who lived in San Antonio for four months trying to get some much-needed help. Bush would drive 10 hours every other weekend to go and see her.
“One night as I was lying in bed, I prayed to God, ‘Please let me know where you want me,’” Bush said. “I wanted God to use me for the good of him. I heard him tell me that nursing is where I needed to be, and I have not looked back since.”
Bush re-enrolled in college and took a few courses elsewhere before applying to the Newman University nursing program.
She was accepted.
At the same time, Mark was going to school to become a paramedic, Bush’s two sons were serving in the National Guard, and her daughter was still battling with her eating and emotional disorders. Mark had became an alcoholic as a result of the severe pain, PTSD and heartache he dealt with from his time overseas.
“I married this man for better or worse and knew he needed help,” Bush said. “He was in and out of treatment, and finally the last time we thought it was going to be it. He was healthy and happy. Or at least I thought.”
Bush completed the last final of her first semester of nursing school at Newman on May 3, 2021. She then went to work, not knowing if she had passed the test or not. When she got off work and pulled into her driveway at home, she found out she had passed.
“I went in and cried to my husband,” Bush said. “He was so proud that I made it this far and we celebrated.”
She continued, “We went to bed that night, and my husband woke me to say he was having a hard time sleeping due to his nightmares. I was so exhausted and tried to wake up. Two seconds later, my husband said he was on the edge, and then took his own life.”
The visions, the sadness and the horror from that experience are still with Bush today.
“I have learned so much through this experience, but I have lost so much,” she said.
A heart for health care
Vetter noted that as a nontraditional student, Bush’s experience and maturity have helped her understand the importance of listening when it comes to communication.
“She practices this daily and has shown her ability to be supportive with her classmates and patients,” Vetter said.
Just as her children have depended on her to make it through the hard days, Bush believes that the experiences she’s lived through have given her the tools she needs to be a supportive, understanding presence for her patients.
“I see patients suffering in hospitals who just need somebody to be there to listen,” Bush said. “I may be the worst nurse in the world if I take 30 minutes out of my time and I know I’ve got other things that I need to be doing, but that 30 minutes could mean I save a life. I gave this person the opportunity to explain, ‘My life stinks. I don’t like it. I don’t wanna be here.’ And most of the time that’s all people want — it’s just for somebody to listen and just give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Bush has learned from some of the same Newman professors who taught her mother as a nursing student of St. Mary’s of the Plains. Bush trusts that God has placed her directly where she needs to be and is willing to be an instrument of his love.
“I promised myself and Mark that I would never give up and never let him or my kids down. Every test I take, I remember that night. I have so much to look forward to in my career and know that God has given me this opportunity to learn from.”
Bush believes that “we were placed on Earth to help and care for one another,” and never wants to lose sight of that belief.
“It’s my time to give back, and the one way I can do that is by bringing a smile to someone in pain, holding the hand of a patient who just wants you to sit with them for a moment, or hugging a family that just lost a loved one.”
A fall 2022 nursing graduate
Now that she is a graduate of the Newman nursing program, Bush hopes to work in a trauma or surgery unit or for the Veterans Affairs.
Bush received her nursing pin at the Newman fall nurse pinning ceremony Dec. 9.
Making the transition from student to nurse was difficult and emotional, but Bush felt extremely grateful.
“I wish that I could have shared this experience with my husband, but I know that he’s upstairs and very proud,” she said. “God’s given me the strength to go on and I am so thankful that I was able to graduate from Newman. This university truly taught us how to be the best nurses we can be.”
In support of Bush’s special graduation ceremony, a 90-year-old customer from her liquor store job attended the nurse pinning ceremony at Newman.
“He comes in all the time, he’s so sweet,” she said. “He lost his wife a couple of months after I lost Mark, and we just become friends. He’s been a huge support and he’s even a graduate of Newman.”
Bush believes God has given her an opportunity to go out and give back. Although she has received nursing offers in Wichita as well as Nashville, she plans to remain in Wichita for a while longer.
“I need to give back to my community here before I head off and give to another community,” Bush said.
Understanding God’s plan
For individuals who find themselves wading through the pain of loss, Bush said her best advice is to always look up.
“When you’re so far down and suffering, you have to get yourself up every morning and say, OK, this is a new day. I’m going to take it one second, one minute, one hour at a time. Always look forward, look up and know that there are people who are depending on you to get better. My kids depended on me to get better.”
She added, “And they still see me fall; we’re all human. But just knowing that God is here, that I can talk to him anytime I want to, even if he may not respond to me, I know he’s listening to me all the time.”
Bush recognizes that every person will suffer in life, but “what we do with that is what makes us better.”
“If we are constantly looking at the negative all the time, we’re never going to grasp what God is trying to teach us,” she said.