Nicole Cianciarulo’s life story thus far isn’t made of fairy tales or Hollywood endings. Rather the story for the 25-year-old recent graduate of Lewis-Clark State College is about joy and heartache, and hard work and love.
Nicole dedicated the past nine years to earning her nursing degree, which she did with honors in May at LCSC. Near the end of June, she begins day shift work at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise as a pediatric nurse.
It’s a job she has often thought about, from her time growing up in Sam Ramon, Calif., to the time she made a promise to her mother.
On. Jan. 15, 2009, Nicole’s mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Nicole was 15 and a junior in high school in San Ramon at the time, and was the only one of the three daughters living at home with her parents.
“My sister was a bone marrow donor and I ended up taking care of her, and with my mom sick, I helped take care of her,” Nicole says. “It made me realize that I was good at taking care of people. It was something that came naturally to me.”
Nicole’s mom eventually passed away in November of 2009.
(Photo: Nicole, front row center, at the LCSC nursing pinning ceremony in May).
“It was really tough,” Nicole says. “I went through a lot of ups and downs. I had to figure myself out. I was very close to my mom.”
During the time she was taking care of her mom, Nicole made a promise to go to Idaho and become a nurse. She has made good on that promise after earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) last month. What made it even more special was that the LCSC BSN recognition and pinning ceremony took place on May 10, the birthday of Nicole’s mother.
“It was pretty special,” Nicole says. “I know my mom would be so stoked. She was such an inspiration for me. She was very caring and very selfless, and those traits I got from my mom.”
Nicole’s road to her BSN degree had plenty of interesting twists. The reason she chose to come to Idaho is that during her junior year in high school, she attended a college fair where she was approached by a Boise State cheerleader. The cheerleader told her she should come to Boise State because it’s easier to get into than a California school and the football field has a blue turf.
She attended BSU and earned a degree in health science in 2015. During that time, she also worked at St. Alphonsus as a CNA where she developed her love for pediatric care.
“I’m a playful person and for me pediatrics is a perfect fit,” Nicole says. “I love working with kids and have a passion for it.”
Despite graduating with a 3.6 GPA at Boise State, the school did not accept her into its nursing program.
“They just looked at my grades, while LCSC looked at my grades, my CNA, and my work history,” Nicole says. “They took a lot of things into consideration. And it really worked out for the best for me.”
Nicole was accepted in the LCSC program and enrolled in the fall of 2016. It took her two years to earn her nursing degree, thanks to her previous college credits.
“I wanted to do nursing so bad so I was hyper focused on it,” Nicole says. “So it was easy for me to focus on my classes. Another thing is Lewiston is a small town. I didn’t know anyone there when I arrived so that made me more focused on nursing school. Lewiston was definitely a great place for me.”
As great as Lewiston is, Nicole says LCSC is even better.
“Honestly everything,” Nicole says about what she likes best about LCSC. “I love the teachers themselves and just the fact that every single one of them shared with every single student. They just genuinely care about teaching and the students.
“I also appreciated every teacher saw strength in every student. They were very intuitive. They told me that I would be good at ICU (intensive care unit) and good in pediatrics. They geared me to those two areas, and I really would like to pursue that later on (working in the ICU unit with pediatric patients). There is not one professor that I had that I would even begin to speak negatively about at LCSC.
“I was meant to be at Lewis-Clark State because I did get the privilege of graduation in the nursing program. I was meant to be in that program. The fact that I got such an amazing education and had an amazing experience is great. I made relationships that I will have from here on out.”
Nicole says her family remains close. Her father has remarried and lives in California along with a sister, while another sister is in Texas and is expecting her first child in December.
“It’s been hard at times but I made the promise and I’m now fulfilling it,” Nicole says. “I am enjoying life. Yeah, it was hard, but it’s been such an amazing experience to fulfill. I know I made the promise to my mom, but it was just as much for me and my future, and I’m passionate about it. So that’s pretty cool.”
Nicole jokes that she’s now a transplant Californian in Idaho and will be recruiting her family to move to the state as well.
“I am very fortunate that I got to graduate from LCSC and very fortunate to have the teachers that I did when I was there,” Nicole says. “I just want to thank them again for what they have done for me.”