Nursing graduates reflect on Coe lessons and experiences

Nursing Alumni CollageKohawk nursing graduates are a caring and nurturing presence in people's lives every day. The dedication to providing personal instruction and extensive experience within Coe’s nursing program prepares Coe nurses to excel quickly in the field.

To get ready to enter the profession, Kohawks have the unique advantage of learning from experienced educators and health care providers — on and off campus. Nursing students complete an unheard of three full terms of one-on-one clinical rotations, many occurring just blocks from campus within the two Top 25 teaching hospitals with the Cedar Rapids' MedQuarter Regional Medical District.

Needless to say, Kohawk nurses enter the profession ready to make an impact.

Courtney Horan ’15    

The Kohawk is keeping U.S. military personnel fit to fly and ready to own the skies – all while finishing her master of science in nursing. Courtney is an active duty Air Force Captain and OR [operating room] nurse stationed in the United Kingdom serving active duty members, their families and retirees. She prepares the operating room for surgical procedures, helps anesthesia with intubation, collects required supplies and instrumentation for the surgeon, and assists with recovery and transportation of patients. 

“Coe prepared me to think critically in my nursing career by expanding my knowledge base in a challenging but rewarding and fast-paced learning environment,” Courtney said. 

“The entire nursing faculty at Coe was truly instrumental to my success at Coe and within my career. They always offered support with difficult assignments, counseling regarding tough situations at clinicals, and overall career and life advice. I never felt alone, and always had someone that was willing to listen when I needed it,” she added.   

Lauren Leckliter ’14  

Lauren is one of only two clinical specialists working with XVIVO in North America, the medical technology company that recently completed the first pig to human heart transplant. XVIVO innovates solutions for organ, tissue and cell preservation to improve the outcomes for patients waiting for a transplantation.

Lauren travels extensively across the nation to collaborate with lung transplant teams – and will begin to travel to Europe soon. She oversees nursing care, clinical research, perfusion and transplant medicine. 

“I can not emphasize how much the one to one preceptorships in the nursing program helped me grasp an understanding of the true role of a nurse and perhaps more importantly, what specialty I was best suited for,” Lauren said.  

She explained there are instances when an organ donor’s body is not able to relieve additional fluid obtained prior to death. Lauren assists the surgical team in providing the lungs an adequate environment while waiting for a recipient. She safeguards the lungs in an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) device that connects them to a ventilator and respiratory machine. 

“This system has greatly impacted the number of people who are able to get lung transplants faster, and decrease the amount of people who die waiting for a transplant,” she said. 

Lauren is a doctorate degree candidate. 

Nicole (Wyss) Rodriguez ’10   

Nicole enjoys being a supportive role model for new nurses in her role at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids. After all, she wants new nurses to have the same successful start to their career that she gained at Coe. 

“Coe taught me the skills necessary to be a successful new grad nurse. Coe also gave me the foundation for me to build my leadership skills and to grow my career,” Nicole said.  

She is the nurse manager in the post-operative and intensive care step down unit. Nicole does patient rounds, supervises staff, manages the staffing schedule, onboards new team members, coordinates orientation and monitors the budget. 

“My favorite thing about my job is watching new nurses and patient care techs learn and grow in their roles. I enjoy being a resource for them and hope that I can mentor and impact them in a positive way,” she said. 

Nicole will be transitioning to her new role as a night resource registered nurse at the end of May. 

Veronica Saucedo-Biagas ’15  

“We were always encouraged to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of nurse do you want to be?’ This is a lesson I always remember and pass along when serving as a preceptor for new NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] nurses,” Veronica said.  

As a NICU nurse at Inova Alexandria Hospital and Mary Washington Hospital, these words have encouraged Veronica to continue growing professionally and academically to advance the clinical ladder. Veronica is a charge nurse, preceptor, certified Spanish interpreter and assists with high-risk deliveries as a neonatal resource nurse. 

“I love providing family-centered care and continuing my education so that I am able to better serve the smallest and most vulnerable of patients,” she said.  

Ryan Mains ’17   

For the last two years, Ryan has been an intensive care unit (ICU) traveling nurse alongside his wife and fellow Kohawk Mariah (Peck) Mains ’17. Ryan cares for the most seriously ill patients in hospitals across the country. 

“Coe helped me tremendously in preparation for my nursing career. The close-knit classrooms and one-on-one preceptorships really helped me engage with my professors and clinical instructors to better understand my role as a nurse in the clinical setting. You are never fully prepared to enter the career of nursing. It's a career with ups and downs and is ever changing. But having the professors and adjuncts at Coe so easily accessible and committed to our success, I felt the most prepared I could have been. Working with nurses from all over the country and hearing about their education, I felt so privileged to be handed the tools that the Coe nursing department gave to me upon entering the nursing profession,” he said.  

Ryan loves exploring parts of the country he never imagined he’d be able to travel to, but the responsibility and dedication Ryan feels towards his patients is not something he takes lightly. He shares words of wisdom for anxious nursing graduates. 

“Entering the workforce can seem overwhelming and a little scary at first, but it is a rollercoaster ride and still in my eyes, the most rewarding profession. There is no better feeling than getting that compliment from a patient or family member, or feeling that you are truly making a difference in someone's life. Happy to have more nurses entering the field. We need you,” he said. 

Interested in Coe’s nursing program? Apply for admission at and schedule an on-campus or virtual visit to meet with nursing faculty at   


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