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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Saving lives is nursing student’s calling

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South Kingstown resident spurns business degree to enter nursing field

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 8, 2012 – Helping keep people safe is something Garrett Lapisky has done since the age of 16. He just didn’t think he’d end up making a career out of it.

After earning his nursing degree at the University of Rhode Island in December, the South Kingstown, R.I., native is one step closer to doing just that.

Lapisky, one of five male students in a winter graduating class of 63, took an unusual road to a career he seems almost destined to pursue.

After graduating from South Kingstown High School in 2003, Lapisky enrolled at the Community College of Rhode Island to earn an associate’s degree in business. He chose to study business or economics at URI.

But as he took his classes, they left him feeling unfulfilled.

“I just realized it wasn’t going to appeal to me,” he said. “I didn’t want to wear a suit all day.”

Lapisky has been a lifeguard since the age of 16 at South Kingstown Town Beach and has served as the lifeguard captain. He volunteered as an emergency medical technician in Charlestown and now volunteers for the Charlestown Fire District.

He enjoys taking care of people and is thrilled by the rush of responding to an emergency call.

As he pondered pursuing a different degree, Lapisky realized helping people was something he had always done and wanted to continue to do in his career. Switching majors was a difficult decision, particularly because he needed to take an extra year of classes to get the prerequisites he needed to enter the College of Nursing. But Lapisky just couldn’t see himself living the 9-to-5 lifestyle.

“I put a lot of thought into it,” Lapisky said. “I went into nursing feeling like it was the right choice. It set me back a bit, but it was worth it.”

The change was a bit jarring. He was often the only male in class and during clinicals, some patients objected to being treated by a male nurse.

“It was a little shocking at first,” Lapisky said.

But, he said, outside of the occasional uncomfortable patient, his gender quickly became a non-factor.

The real challenge, he said, was the demanding curriculum coupled with juggling a busy schedule that included plenty of midnight emergency calls.

Many of the classes and clinicals he took were unlike anything Lapisky had ever studied or experienced before. He had never seen a baby born until he worked in a maternity ward.

But his training as an EMT gave him some experience in other areas.

“It helped with some aspects,” he said. “Working with patients in the trauma and cardiac care unit, that background helped. When I did my maternity semester, I had zero experience with that.”

Lapisky seems to have found his calling in acute care and said he hopes to work in a Level I trauma center, such as Rhode Island Hospital, once he passes the national licensing exam for registered and practical nurses. He is scheduled to take the exam Feb. 22.

In time, he’d like to become a flight nurse and work for a critical care helicopter service such as Life Star, based in Hartford, Conn.

“I like helping people, and the most opportunities to do that would be there,” at a trauma center or critical care helicopter service, he said. “It’s stressful, but it’s the intensity level that I’m drawn to. I think it’s more rewarding stabilizing the patient right there and saving their life.”

For more information about Lapisky, contact Brian Pernicone in the URI Department of Communications and Marketing at (401) 874-4894 or email him at bpernicone@advance.uri.edu.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.