Photo by: William Forsman

One could say nursing is part of Lilly Schmidt’s DNA. Her mother was a nurse, and her grandmother, too. And since as far back as she can remember, becoming a nurse was what she wanted to do.

“I’ve always had a passion for it — just connecting with the patient and realizing you actually made an impact on them,” she says.

Lilly grew up in Marshfield, Wis., a small town in the central part of the state. After finishing high school, she crossed the Mississippi and enrolled in classes at Winona State University.

When the time came — after completing her prerequisite courses in Winona — to choose a nursing program, Lilly knew she wanted to continue her education in Rochester, a place she fondly refers to as a “grown-up town.”

“I grew up coming to Rochester,” she says. “I knew the area, and my grandmother lives here, and I just love being here. Plus, I mean Mayo Clinic; I knew clinicals there would be pretty awesome.”

Now less than two months away from graduating with a nursing degree from WSU-Rochester, Lilly is ready to start the next chapter of her life and pursue a career in obstetrics.

We recently sat down with Lilly, now 22, to give her an opportunity to reflect on how her time at WSU-Rochester has prepared her for the future. Minor edits were made for flow and clarity.


I remember the first time I had my [obstetrics] clinical; I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. I had the best experience with this new mom, and I just connected with her. I gave her little 8-hour-old baby a bath, and it was just such a cool experience — so surreal. I loved it.


I actually like teaching the mom. I mean the babies are awesome; they’re cute and tiny, but I like teaching the mom and forming a little friendship.

My first ever birth, I helped the mom actually push, like holding her legs, and then all of the sudden we had to do an emergency c-section. And she was scared, and I was there holding her hand and just drying her tears … That patient bond is what I love.


The fact that we have such a bond formed with Mayo Clinic and WSU nurses, I mean it definitely gives us a heads up on our careers. I think that was one of the deciding factors that made me come here in the first place. I mean, you put Mayo Clinic on a résumé and it’s going to stand out a little bit.


I had community clinicals at Hawthorne Education Center and my faculty leader for that was Professor Sue Davies. She’s amazing. I love her enthusiasm and I like that I can confide in her. We had a really great experience at Hawthorne where me and a couple other classmates taught refugees and immigrants health literacy.

It was such a challenge because you have to constantly gauge where they’re at, because they don’t speak your language and you have to teach them vital things to stay healthy: nutrition, medicine and our culture of health care. It is extremely difficult, but I had so much passion to want them to understand — because I cared, and she had the same passion, that same drive, that same care, and we really connected as student-professor. I just feel she really cares about her students and the success of her students.


Right now, I just want to get my feet wet and get some experience in. I am thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner at some point. Also, I think doctors who start out as nurses have a different perspective of patient care and collaboration, so that could potentially be a path.


Get ready because it’s hard. You’re going to want to quit sometimes, but just talk to your professors. They are more than willing to help you and make you the most successful nurse that you can be.

This article is part of a collection of interviews being published in partnership with Winona State University-Rochester.

Cover photo by William Forsman

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Sean Baker