York College Nursing student conquers cancer, course load and collegiate hoops career
York College of Pennsylvania senior Beth Wiseley is a study in perseverance: in her nursing courses, on the basketball court, and in overcoming a frightening health challenge when her college career had barely begun.
Beth played basketball at Emmaus High School near Allentown, and she knew she wanted to play at the next level.
“I did a lot of research between nursing schools; nursing schools with basketball, big schools, small schools,” she says. “I thought I always wanted to go to a big school, but I love the camaraderie here.”
She says York College is one of the few schools she considered that allows nursing students to participate in athletics and even encourages it.
“I learned how to balance school work, basketball, and my social life. I’ve learned lessons way beyond textbooks, about overall life,” she says.
An early challenge
At Christmastime in 2014, during her freshman year, she received shocking news that upended her studies and her basketball career. She was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She and her family quickly opted for surgery to remove a tumor near her heart.
But Beth wasn’t sidelined long. During her recuperation, she and her instructors devised an academic plan.
“I had work sent home, and read and read and read,” she says.
Just a month after surgery, she was back at school. Her instructors offered to let her take an incomplete grade, but she refused.
“I wasn’t trying to show anyone,” she points out. “I just wanted to accomplish the goal for myself.”
She says returning to school that soon was the best choice she’s ever made. Her surgeon approved the plan as long as she used a rolling backpack to tote her heavy nursing textbooks. That winter, when it snowed, her friends knew where she was by the tracks from the backpack’s wheels.
Exactly a year after her surgery ‒ a period that included another setback from a foot injury ‒ she was back on the basketball court as a sophomore. In June 2016, the Capital Athletic Conference honored her with its Medal of Inspiration.
Beth, now one of the Spartan team captains, says she’s in good health. Her experience reassured her that a nursing career was the correct choice. She says York College also proved to be the right choice.
“I didn’t have to worry about feeling outnumbered in classes. The classes are big enough to meet people but still make friendships,” she says.
Her professors even come to her games.
A full schedule
Basketball, with practices and two to three games a week, comes on top of eight- to nine-hour academic days. But Beth calls the sport an outlet. “It gives me motivation to stay time-managed,” she says.
As a captain, she is a leader of 16 teammates, a role in which she’s learned how to apply constructive criticism, which she says can help in her nursing career.
Rounding out a busy schedule, Beth serves as a mentor to younger nursing students. She’s on the board of the college’s chapter of the Student Nursing Association and will travel to Tennessee in April for the national convention.
And she makes a point of attending Mass each week at St. Patrick Catholic Church.
Since the end of Beth’s sophomore year, she has been in real medical settings at local hospitals, as well as at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute in Harrisburg. This spring, she will have a practicum in intensive care, paired with a Registered Nurse in 12-hour shifts.
“I spent this past summer at the Lehigh Valley Health Network as a nursing assistant,” she says. “I shadowed intensive care units, cardiac, trauma, pediatric. I’m really drawn to critical care nursing.”
The next step
Beth will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at spring commencement. She has accepted a position as a graduate nurse at Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Before she begins work in July, she will study for her Registered Nurse exam. York College provides a four-day review to help students prepare. She also has plans to return to school, possibly to become a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist.
“There are so many options,” she says.
Beth is about to achieve her longtime goal of becoming a health care professional.
“I wanted to leave work every day knowing I make a difference in someone’s life,” she says.
With graduation only a few months away, she believes she is ready.
“After this education,” she says, “I couldn’t be more motivated to accept the challenge.”