Elite athletes – like the ones we’ve been watching in the Olympics – train long and hard. They devote countless hours to mastering new skills and techniques. They sacrifice time with their friends and family.
They spend years preparing for the moment when all that they’ve learned can be put into action.
Kind of like nursing students, eh?
Rachel Longfors would know. She is a discus thrower and contender for the U.S. Track and Field team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – and also a second-year nursing student at Chamberlain’s Phoenix campus.
Both athletics and nursing run in her family.
Her father was a competitive athlete in high school, as were her older sisters. Rachel herself started by running hurdles but found her niche in throwing.
She attended the University of Florida on a track and field scholarship, earning a degree in healthcare education and anthropology. After graduation, she continued pursuing her dream of competing in the Olympics. She currently trains with coach John Godina at World Athletics Center in Phoenix.
“Throwers are similar to fine wine in that we get better as we age,” said Rachel. “It is also similar to nursing that as we gain more experience, we are more efficient and able to do our jobs better.”
Female throwers are at their best in their mid-30s, she explained. Rachel is 30, so she still has several years to go. However, she didn’t want to end up asking herself “What do I do now?” after her athletic career was over. Nursing seemed like a good fit.
“My mom is an RN and she finished up school when I was young,” she said “Nursing was always an interest for me. It’s kind of natural; many of my aunts are also nurses.” She enrolled in Chamberlain’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
Today, as she dedicates herself both nursing and athletics, she sees strong parallels between the two. “I like the challenge of working at something until it’s figured out,” she said.
As for balancing her two pursuits, discipline is key.
“I wake up, and depending on the day, I either workout and train, or I go to class, and then I flip-flop. After class, I go to training, and after training I go to work, and then I come home and go to sleep and start the day all over again.”
Flexibility is also important. “I have a great coach who tapers my training down as I need it,” she said. “Training as heavily as we do can also be mentally taxing, so it’s difficult to study. He’s also very flexible with my time.”
While she has her eye on a spot on the 2016 Olympic team, Rachel also aspires to work as an ER nurse, or in surgical nursing so she could join her sister, a surgeon, on medical mission trips. Having traveled all over the U.S. as a track athlete, she’d also like to travel the world as part of her nursing career.
“I’m looking forward to a career that keeps me active and healthy,” she said. “I’d like to set a good example for patients.”