Personal hardship leads to lifetime of travel for School of Nursing speaker

For Cassidy Bruns, a passion for travel and helping others is paving the way for the next step in her journey.

Bruns, a graduating nursing major from Springfield, Illinois, said her desire to travel began with a volunteer trip to Ecuador she went on when she was 19 shortly after her dad died.

“I lost my dad, so it was kind of just a need to get away and kind of just clear my head, and nature does that for me,” Bruns said. “It allows you some breathing room to just get away from life a little bit, and helping people makes me happy.”

Bruns said the trip was already planned and her dad was

very supportive of her going, so she still went in memory of him.

“Whenever he passed away, I had actually considered not going anymore just because I felt the need to be there for my family, but it would have been six months after his passing that I left,” Bruns said. “So I just felt like because he wanted me to go so bad and do that, that it would be just like honoring him to continue on and actually do that since he was so supportive of me.”

Bruns said her volunteer work consisted of building bathrooms and teaching English to children.

“A little bit of Spanish was preferred, but it wasn’t required,” Bruns said. “At

the time, I had three years of Spanish just from high school, and then we went and we also helped build bathrooms. So my tour guides, they were all Ecuadorian, but they spoke English to the extent we could understand them ... to find out what we needed to know.”

Bruns said what stood out to her most during the trip was how the people treated one another.

“I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me was how loving everyone was

toward each other,” Bruns said. “Like, in Ecuador ... everybody is just willing to help at all times and they’re forgiving and willing to help you in any way ... That was the biggest thing that stuck out to me because we’re not always that quick to help each other here sometimes.”

Bruns’s boyfriend Andrew Worthey, a junior nursing major at Lakeview College of Nursing, said Bruns holds this same willingness to help others in her own community.

“She feels other people’s pain if someone’s in distress,” Worthey said. “So that definitely makes her want to help other people ... and I think all around she just likes people and animals not to be in pain and she wants to be there for them.”

Bruns said following her trip to Ecuador, she sees much more travel in her future.

“This is something I definitely want to do more of,” Bruns said. “Which is why I think I’m interested in nursing, because I can [go to] different countries, I can go abroad and can do nursing to help people that need it ... I don’t necessarily know if I want to make a career out of it, but I definitely want to spend a lot of time volunteering abroad ... I think that was just the start of a lifetime of wanting to [travel abroad].”

Nursing instructor Nancy Kurilla, who nominated Bruns to be a graduation speaker, said Bruns is interested in holistic medicine, which considers healing the whole person. Kurilla said she normally doesn’t hear of students interested in this specialized field.

“They’re so focused on just learning skills, getting tasks done and being concerned with whatever part of the body is ill, just being concerned with that part and not the whole person,” Kurilla said. “So I have to commend her that she’s already thinking about caring for the patient holistically. Most nurses don’t even think that far out of the box. Every person is individual, every person has their own desires and what’s important to them, and that’s what holistic medicine incorporates. I think it shows just how outstanding and thoughtful of a person she is, that she’s already thinking that direction.”

Her mentor Amelia Perez, Department Chair for Family Health & Community Health Nursing, said Bruns puts a maximum amount of effort into her classes so she can be prepared to help others.

“She has a natural interest in wanting to help people,” Perez said. “You can tell that she’s really passionate about the nursing career and about taking care of patients, and she puts 150 percent effort into her assignments, her coursework. She wants to learn the material as much as she can so that she can take care of her patients safely.”

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