By Lindy Thackston
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 17, 2014)-- When Cory Smith got out of the military, he didn't know what to do.
"I enjoyed what I did as far as working with my hands, being in fast-paced, high-pressure situations," said the former Army ranger who has two Afghanistan tours under his belt.
"But when I first got out, I had no idea what I was going to transition into. I struggled."
His mom and grandma were nurses and they planted the seed.
When he found the Marian University Accelerated Nursing Program, he knew it'd be a perfect fit.
"Since getting into this program, it's given me that sense of purpose again. It’s given me that drive and sense of achievement which is something I didn’t have for the first year I was out."
With a college degree, the nursing program takes just 16 months.
Smith got a public relations degree before joining the Army.
"I can’t be in a regular program where it's four years and it's going to take so long. I've got to make things happen now for my daughter."
The program lets Smith also juggle fatherhood, a full-time job, and supporting his military family.
He works with GallantFew, and ran 565 miles from Ft. Benning to Indianapolis in 28 days to raise awareness about the tough transition back to civilian life. (Click here for more information on Run Ranger Run, a team event inspired by Smith's run, and how you can participate.)
"Like Cory whose career was in the military, we see teachers, we see business owners," said Kris Shallenberger, Director of Community Relations for the program. "I have a couple of attorneys in the program right now , accountants, and an engineer, so we're seeing all kinds of folks."
Shallenberger said some of the students are fresh out of school, but many have been out a few years or more and were not getting what they'd hoped out of their college degree or career.
"They have this degree and they're not able to get out there and do the things they thought they could do with that."
Some had a personal health experience that inspired them to pay it forward.
"What we're creating for the work force is incredible and it gives me such special assurance as a mother or as a patient that if I get hurt or get sick, that these are the kind of folks that are going to take care of me," said Shallenberger.
"I think the great thing about this program is that there are people coming from all kinds of different fields," said Smith. "We're bringing people that have different dimensions, different perspectives of life and have seen different things and they’re able to bring that to the plate."
There have been 300 graduates so far and 250 students are currently enrolled.
If you're interested in joining them, click here for more information.
The U.S. will need more than 1.1 million more nurses to keep up with new openings and retirements by 2020. Indiana is already behind, ranking no. 40 among states in nurse practitioners-per capita.