TCU Nursing Athletes Take National Championship

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By Laine Zizka

TCU Women’s Rifle athlete Kristen Hemphill. Photo by Sharon Ellman.

For most college students, finding the time to work, do well in school and keep a fulfilling social life is difficult enough. For three nursing students, the school-life balance is made more difficult by being women’s rifle national champions.

“I feel so blessed to be a part of TCU’s nursing program and rifle program,” said Kristen Hemphill, a freshman nursing student and member of the rifle team. “I feel honored to be getting a quality education while being able to reach my goals that I’ve had since I was 14.”

Along with her teammates, senior Rachel Garner and freshman Taylor Haffner, Hemphill began shooting as part of her local 4-H program.  When the time came for college, they each searched hard for a university that would allow them to compete and study.

TCU Women’s Rifle athlete Taylor Haffner. Photo by Sharon Ellman.

“I had a couple coaches tell me that it wasn’t possible and I found out I needed to be intentional about finding a coach that wanted me to do both and was okay with that,” Garner said. “TCU ended up being the best fit for that – our coach here is incredible.”

With a rigorous nursing program like TCU’s – combining interprofessional practice with clinical experience – many students find it difficult to balance the course load with everyday life. Since choosing TCU, Garner admits she has never felt like she had to choose between her two passions.

“I want to do nursing because the relationships you get to have with people and the change that you’re able to directly implement and help people,” said Garner. “You are the ones doing all the changes; you are the ones seeing what they’re going through; you are their advocate.”

For the freshmen with their college careers ahead of them, the process of learning to balance academics and athletics is already well under way.

“In a few weeks I will be missing an entire week of school for Junior Olympics and will be missing an anatomy exam and a lab, and as soon as I get back, I will have a lab exam,” Hemphill said. “Although it is tough, it teaches me great time management skills. I have calendars, and I plan out my weeks hour by hour on what I need to get done and when I need to do it.”

While Haffner and Hemphill are looking forward to tour hospitals and begin clinicals, Garner is continuing to balance her responsibilities.

“I’m still figuring that out. It’s very dynamic,” said Garner. “It changes every semester because the demands that you have as a nursing student – as any student I imagine – change dramatically each semester.”

For all three, it’s about being disciplined and intentional about finding time outside of responsibilities.

TCU Women’s Rifle athlete Taylor Rachel Garner. Photo by Sharon Ellman.

“There’s no way around the fact that you’re not going to have time to do what you want to do,” Garner said. “Our coach … wants you to be very serious about your dedication to athletics, but it’s very uncommon to find a coach that is so supportive of the academic side.”

As much support as the team gets from their coach, they also find it in their nursing faculty.

“Because there’s that closeness, we also have that relationship with the faculty and they are very intentional about how they construct their courses,” said Garner. “Once you get into the upper levels, they intentionally try to schedule exams around when other classes have them – which is really nice.”

After graduation, Garner has a job lined up at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth on a cardiac unit and plans to continue to train toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, she hopes to continue inspiring other student-athletes to get the most out of their education.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself and realize that, sometimes, there’s just not going to be enough time to do what you know you need to do,” Garner said. “Sometimes you just have to accept it and do the best you can.”