Beyond Basic Training

Patrick Kirk `19

Even in his early 20s, Patrick Kirk ’19 has already had a great deal of experience in the health care field, which he has used to his benefit in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at Graceland’s Independence campus. 

Kirk graduated from high school in 2013 and began college at the University of Central Missouri (UCH) as a criminal justice major, but he quickly determined it wasn’t for him. He wanted a career in which he could work directly with people, one that was more “hands-on.” He just wasn’t sure yet what path to take.

So, he enlisted in the Army National Guard in February 2014 and signed up as a combat medic. In his initial 30 weeks in the National Guard, he earned his EMT license and discovered a passion. Once he returned to civilian life, Kirk re-enrolled in UCM to complete his nursing prerequisites in August 2015, and he began working as a health care tech at the University of Kansas (KU) Medical Center, where he still works today. “I love the hands-on aspect of the job and the ability to make a direct impact,” Kirk shared.

From these experiences, he realized he wanted to stay in the health care field and knew that, for him, it would be in nursing. He looked at a lot of programs but, ultimately, decided on Graceland because it was close to home, it was a shorter program at just 18 months and it lined up really well with the courses he had already taken at UCM. Additionally, he was impressed with the professionalism of the people he interacted with at Graceland as he was considering programs, and he had a familiarity with and confidence in the university because his mom also graduated from Graceland’s nursing program.

Kirk was accepted to the Graceland University School of Nursing in February 2017, which he planned to begin that June. However, life had something else in store for him first.

To this point, the National Guard had required a couple weeks of training in the summer and one weekend a month. So, it came as a bit of a surprise when, about the same time he received notice of his acceptance to Graceland, he was informed by the Army that he would be deployed to the Middle East. His enrollment to Graceland would have to be deferred.

During his deployment from April 2017 to March 2018, Kirk was stationed primarily in Jordan, where he had the opportunity to work directly with military doctors and nurse practitioners, and he received a solid foundation in the medical field. He says of the experience, “Looking back, it definitely set me up for success.”

Kirk got home in March 2018 and started at Graceland in June. He recognizes the difficulty of the program and leans heavily on his medical background to get him through the challenges he faces.

“I’ve had experiences where I’ve made a direct impact on people’s lives — people I’ll never see again — and being able to say that, I think it’s cool on its own. But, for me, I always want to be the kind of person who’s moving forward. That’s what has motivated me in the past and will continue to motivate me in the future,” said Kirk.

His experience and ambition serve him and those around him well. He is the president of McKevit Manor’s class of 2019 — the nursing program’s branch of Graceland’s “House” system. It is a peer-elected role that Kirk sees as a position of advocacy.

Kirk has used his voice as class president to advocate for additional training in APA style formatting when students voiced that they did not yet feel they had the foundation required to be successful in their program. He worked with faculty and staff who helped make APA training available to Independence nursing students through faculty connections on the Lamoni campus.

In this and other ways, Kirk recognizes that Graceland’s faculty promote and support student success. He says they take the extra steps to accommodate student learning and foster an environment that creates great nurses.

“It’s an environment where they definitely want you to succeed,” he shared. “Because when we succeed, Graceland succeeds.”

Kirk will complete his obligation to the National Guard in February 2020 and then plans to focus on his civilian career. With his experience in trauma and emergency medicine as a combat medic, he can see himself going into an ICU or ER setting. He also has the desire to continue education beyond his BSN at some point in the future — he is looking into nurse practitioner programs — and would like the opportunity to further his education at Graceland.

Military Friendly School - MF `20-21 Award badge

MILITARY FRIENDLY Graceland was chosen for this designation “based on the programs available for military service members, veterans and military spouses, and exceeds benchmark standards" for a variety of criteria.





The number of students Graceland has graduated from it's master's level programs since launching in 1997.





Graceland School of Nursing graduates have enrolled from all over the world.

*Data provided by the Graceland University Institutional Research Office