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Dahnika Sachs

K-State graduation year: 2011
Degree: Life Science w/minor in Women's Studies
Current employer:
Position: Nurse

How many times, if any, did you change your major during college?

I started my freshmen year at K-State with a major in Political Science (Pre-Law) before switching to Athletic Training and finishing in Life Science. 

Describe the process of choosing your major.

I chose Life Science because I knew that I wanted to do something in healthcare, but was not sure what that something was. After talking a lot with friends, family, professors and my advisor, I chose Life Science with the classes needed to go to school to become either a Physician’s Assistant or Registered Nurse. 

What activities/organizations were you involved in while in college?

Two of my most memorable activities at K-State were my sorority (Pi Beta Phi) and working as a University Experience Peer Instructor. I loved participating in all of the greek philanthropy activities as well as intramurals. As a peer instructor, I lead a course called "University Experience" for freshmen students in addition to two study labs pertaining to Sociology 211: Introduction to Sociology.

Did you complete an internship or have related work experience prior to receiving your job?

In order to get some experience in the medical field while at K-State, I got my Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license and worked both in an assisted living facility as well as at a safety net clinic for the uninsured.

Describe the process of finding your first job.

I took a bit of a different route following my graduation. I wanted to travel, learn about a unique culture, and gain some “life experience” while expanding upon the knowledge and skills I developed at K-State. I applied to and was accepted as a Health Education volunteer in the United States Peace Corps and served for two years in the Republic of Moldova. This was truly an invaluable experience that transformed me as a person and as a future health professional. While nearing the end of my service, I began to apply to different nursing schools in and around Kansas. I applied to three schools, and chose the University of Kansas for its excellent reputation and proximity to home. About one month before my graduation from nursing school I received an email, through the school of nursing, regarding an open position at a family medicine outpatient clinic in Lawrence. This was the perfect opportunity for me because I believe that primary care is extremely important, and was not really interested in working in a hospital. I sent in my resume, had an interview, and was offered the position a week before graduation in May.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I work in an outpatient, family medicine clinic. The aspect of my job that I enjoy most is getting to work with and educate a diverse group of patients of all ages in health promotion and the prevention of disease. 

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

The most challenging aspect of my job is knowing that I am unable to “help” or “cure” everyone. An individual’s health involves many different factors, some they can control and some they cannot. As a nurse it can be frustrating to see a patient continue to smoke, for example, knowing that it harms their health. However, I always try to be empathetic and attempt to “put myself in their shoes” in order to best address THEIR needs and desires instead of just what I may feel is best. 

What advice would you give someone interested in your field?

The best advice that I can give to someone interested in nursing is to talk with people currently in the field and get as much experience as you can working, volunteering and/or shadowing. Nursing is an incredibly diverse field, so get as much experience as you can in different areas before choosing a speciality. While in nursing school, I did public health nursing research and it really opened doors to the diverse graduate degrees available in nursing. 

Think back to the first year of college. What were the major lifestyle changes in the transition from college to the world of work? How did you adapt?

Probably the biggest lifestyle change in the transition from college to the world of work is the need to be self-motivated because there is a lot of competition for employment and there typically isn’t someone else to hold you accountable. The transition from high school to college is good preparation for this and a good chance to learn how to take responsibility and initiative and not procrastinate. 

What was the one thing you did in college that has had the most impact on your life or career

The one thing that I did in college that has had the most impact on my life career is to be open to meeting new friends and to making connections with professors. I still keep in contact with several professors and made some of my best friends at K-State; these relationships have been beneficial both professionally and personally. 

What tips do you have for current undergrads about opportunities they should definitely take advantage of while they are in school? Were there any experiences you missed out on that you wish you would have participated in?

One thing that I did not do in college that I recommend is studying abroad. Many friends studied abroad, and it’s an excellent way to explore a new culture and probably learn something about yourself.  

Was there a specific class you remember that sparked your interest in your career direction?

One class that I remember vividly is “Human Body” or Anatomy and Physiology. It was extremely difficult, but it felt great to challenge myself and to be successful after putting in countless hours of studying.