Teenage nursing job helped form career for MCC’s Schoenemann
An opportunity to earn some spending cash when Whitney Schoenemann was a teenager turned into a path that profoundly shaped a career and ultimately her family.
Schoenemann, now a nurse practitioner at McCook Clinic, was a senior at McCook High School when she decided to explore some career options. She applied and was later hired at Willow Ridge (now Kinship Pointe) to work in the dining room on nights and weekends. At that time there was a need for certified nursing assistants (CNAs). McCook Community College was offering classes, and Schoenemann’s boss encouraged some of the kitchen staff to become certified.
Even though nobody in her family came from a health care background, Schoenemann signed up. It was a decision that created the foundation for her career in health care.
“It was a wonderful experience, and I loved that the college offered it,” she said. “It didn’t interfere with our high school hours, and it was an awesome opportunity.”
She and her classmates were trained a few nights a week to help patients in basic everyday skills like dressing, eating, grooming and getting around. Schoenemann earned her CNA certification before graduating from high school, allowing her to move from the kitchen to the nursing department.
“I loved working with the elderly and assisting patients, so I knew pretty early I was going to end up somewhere in health care,” she said.
After high school graduation, Schoenemann was also interested in dental assistant careers and worked that job as a teen. She was familiar with the nursing home and the more she looked into emergency medicine, that seemed interesting too.
“So, my CNA became my base or my pyramid,” Schoenemann said. “It gave me some insight into what other opportunities were out there – from hospital settings to nursing home, long-term assisted living, home-health – the opportunities were endless, and that’s the part I liked.”
She enrolled at McCook Community College full-time to continue her exploration.
“It was a leap that I took and absolutely loved it,” she said.
Shoenemann continued her nursing assistant job at Willow Ridge while attending MCC. Sometimes she worked before classes and sometimes at night and on weekends.
“What I loved about MCC was that it was close to my friends and family,” she said. “We knew our instructors on a first-name basis and they knew us.”
Two of those instructors were Kathy Harrison and Jim Hall. Harrison was her instructor for the CNA training. Hall taught biology, anatomy and physiology. Harrison is now director of nursing at Mid-Plains Community College. Hall is retired and serves as the director of administration for the McCook College Foundation.
From a basic health care standpoint, Schoenemann knew she had taken the right classes –even if she would have “taken a left turn instead of a right.” She believed her time at MCC set her up for success in wide range of opportunities in the health care field.
Schoenemann said that with her associate degree, she felt prepared to go on to a university and felt comfortable and confident enough to pursue a career in health services.
Before she graduated, she reached out to Community Hospital where she was doing some CNA work.
“I got to see emergency medicine and acute care and worked with providers who really inspired me to go on,” Schoenemann said.
She went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska Medical Center-Kearney Division then became a registered nurse. About that same time, her boyfriend from MCC was navigating a similar career path.
She met her future husband, Mike Schoenemann, a basketball player from Crawford, when he was taking emergency medical classes at MCC and working on the volunteer fire department. They met when he picked up a patient at Willow Ridge one night when she was working. MCC was the foundation for Mike’s fire science career, and later, flight paramedic.
As they pondered their future, Mike and Whitney both liked the idea of returning to McCook.
She had a job offer in Kearney and McCook but took the job in McCook as a registered nurse, primarily in the emergency room at Community Hospital. They married, returned to McCook and had three children, daughter Kensington, 8, and sons Krew, 5 and Kreed, 2.
Mike is a lieutenant at the McCook Fire Department but previously worked as a paramedic for LifeNet flight helicopter service. He often returns to MCC to teach classes in pre-hospital trauma life support. The Schoenemanns also run a sprinkler business.
Whitney’s passion for emergency medicine, grew significantly over those first 10 years back in McCook, but she knew she still wanted to do more to broaden her skill set. She returned to school and earned a master’s degree in nursing from UNM-Kearney a year ago. She’s been with McCook Clinic since October of 2021.
“We started our family here and plan to remain where our roots are,” Whitney said. “We just love this community. We love that we get to know our patients on a first-name basis.”