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by Angela Sorace, staff writer

Life doesn’t end at 50. Elizabeth St. Cyrr, 57-year-old, senior nursing student at HPU, can prove it. But she admits it is not always easy to start over again.

“ I started nursing school about four years ago,” St. Cyrr said. “There were other things I was interested in, but I couldn’t find the money.”

That’s because universities required prerequisites St. Cyrr couldn’t get a loan for, because she already had a degree from 30 years ago.

“ I was going to get a master in speech pathology, but to do that I had to do the prerequisites, which at the time I didn’t have money to pay for,” said St. Cyrr.

She also considered a doctorate in marine biology, which is why she is in Hawai‘i. “But I decided that with my age, by the time I got out with my doctorate, I would be ready to retire,” St. Cyrr said.
Then, St. Cyrr considered nursing.

“ The prerequisites to enter nursing school are the first two years of school, with biology, chemistry, history, and all that kind of stuff,” said St. Cyrr. “The University of Hawai‘i required all these be complete before I could begin in the nursing program. I would have had to come up with money to take those classes,” St. Cyrr said.

“ But at HPU, if you are admitted to the nursing program, you are admitted to the very beginning, which allowed me to qualify for government loans,” she said, “and I only had to take a few prerequisites.”

Another advantage is that retirement issues don’t apply to nursing. “A terminal bachelor degree in nursing gives you a profession immediately,” said St. Cyrr. “There is no forced retirement.

“ There are a lot of different venues in nursing. You know, when you get older and it’s too demanding on the floor, you can work in private care or some sort of administrative work or international nursing, public health nursing,” she added.

St. Cyrr has wanted to go back to school since she was 25, but there were too many constraints. As the wife of an engineer for the oil industry, St. Cyrr lived abroad until her divorce.

“ I was living in Indonesia, Malaysia, Africa, third world countries,” St. Cyrr said, “and it was difficult to find a master’s program that I could get into, and there weren’t any baccalaureate programs I was interested in.”

“ I looked, when I was in Jakarta, Indonesia,” St. Cyrr said, “and to take a business masters or a marketing masters or anything like that, I would have had to go to Irian Jaya, which was hundreds of miles from home in Jakarta, take one class for three months, and then come back. And I had children at the time.

“ I would have had to fly and leave them behind for three months at a time,” she said.

“The same in Tripoli, Libya,” St. Cyrr added. “There wasn’t anything available that I could qualify for.”

Why return to the books after three decades?

“ I like learning,” said St. Cyrr. “My first degree was in social work, which is a very practical degree. I wanted to take some sciences, which I didn’t take in that degree, because there were things I wanted to know and understand.

But I also have to be realistic and get a job that can support me, and that’s what nursing does,” said St. Cyrr.

St. Cyrr said that the first years of nursing were hard because she hadn’t been back to school for years and it took time for her to focus.

Added to that are the clinical classes required for nursing students St. Cyrr has done seven in two years, working both day and night shifts at various local hospitals.

“ Clinicals are good practical experience,” said St. Cyrr, “but it’s time consuming to do the write ups. There was so much paper work and documentation that it seemed like I never had enough time to study the text,” she added.

As her studies progressed she realized she loved obstetrics. “I love helping people to relax and to assist the miracle of life,” she said.

However, she would also like to work in international health.

“ In nursing, I learned about the millions of people who die each year for not having water, and to me it became an idea of balance,” said St. Cyrr. “We don’t need technological advance; we need to catch up the rest of the world to bare minimum health protection,” she said. “That’s possible today; we just need to commit resources to it.

“ I found that these kind of problems intrigue me more than working on a medical search floor,” she added.

St. Cyrr is sure to find a job in obstetrics, but she will also look for something in international health by contacting organizations such as the Bill Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization.

“ I expect wonderful things to happen when I graduate in January,” she said.


Elizabeth St. Cyrr plays the piano for patients at Hale Ku‘ike, an Alzheimer’s residential care facility.

St.Cyrr preps medical equipment at Kuakini Medical Center’s intensive care facility. St. Cyrr works at Kuakini and at Hale Ku‘ike as part of her clinical classes.

All photos by Angela Sorace



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