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October 22, 2021

JuJuan Cook: SVSU Nursing Student Determined to Make a Difference

Nursing Student with Patient

With health care careers receiving more attention than ever, society sees the critical role of nurses, especially hardworking and compassionate nurses like JaJuan Cook.  

Currently in his senior year of the nursing program at Saginaw Valley State University, Cook was drawn to health care after seeing how influential nurses are during some of the hardest parts of people’s lives. Cook was inspired by their ability to comfort people who are in pain and make a positive impact during difficult moments.  

“As a nurse you get those personal connections and can help people at their lowest when they are in times of need,” said Cook. “I know how difficult it is and you’re not yourself. The people who help you get better are inspirational. It’s life-changing.” 

A Detroit native, Cook’s first experience with SVSU was far before he was looking at college choices as a high school senior.  

“In fifth grade I attended a music camp here and stayed in the dorms. I was able to walk the campus and experience everything,” he said. 

This experience stayed with him and when he was reintroduced to SVSU by a high school recruiter, he was reassured that it was the perfect fit for him.  

Just as he loves the personal connections he is able to make as a nurse, he also loves the personal connections he has built at SVSU.  

“In nursing we have cohorts — it’s more personable,” said Cook. “I made great friends. I get to really connect with my professors. They get to know their students and help them. They give you all the tools you need.” 

Cook credited Jaime Huffman, SVSU assistant professor of nursing, for laying the groundwork for the nurse he would become. She taught one of his first nursing classes.

“She really helped prepare us. I don’t think I would be where I am now without that foundation,” he said. 

Cook gained hands-on skills through the simulation labs at SVSU and his clinical rotations, which have been especially instrumental in preparing him for his career. He is currently completing a clinical rotation in a pediatric unit, and he will be in the ICU next semester.  

“I’ve gained so much experience. You are able to apply what you learn in the classroom and experience it firsthand. It makes everything click,” he said. 

He is especially appreciative of his internship experience and the impact this has had on his future nursing career. 

At SVSU, student nurses are paired with a current nurse at their hospital of choice for 14 shifts. This gave him one-on-one attention and practical experience that propelled his confidence and abilities. 

 “It allows me to get comfortable and prepare for my next steps. I know a lot of schools don’t do that, and I really enjoy this experience,” said Cook. 

He has become connected to his patients, as well as the community he has become part of in the Great Lakes Bay Region.  

He has volunteered at many community events, including administering shots at flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics held at SVSU. He also has written cards for the elderly and helped at Underground Railroad, a nonprofit that serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  

Many of Cook’s volunteer opportunities came through his involvement as a Thompson Scholar. Bob and Ellen Thompson created the Thompson Working Families Scholarship to provide scholarship support for students from hardworking families. The Thompson family recently donated an additional $6 million gift to SVSU for this scholarship program.  

Part of the renewal requirements for this scholarship include community involvement and volunteering, which made Cook appreciate this scholarship even more. 

 “It’s been a big help. I don’t have to focus as much on student loans,” said Cook. “I was able to learn more about this area and outreach programs. It’s more than just monetary — I got a lot out of it.” 

As Cook looks to the future, he will take this spirit of giving back and all the skills he has gained through SVSU’s nursing program.  

“After I get a few years of experience I want to go into travel nursing so I can go to new states and new areas while still practicing,” said Cook. “You have the autonomy to choose where you want to go. You get to see different areas, meet different types of people and gain valuable experience.” 

Ultimately, he plans to specialize in the nursing field.   

“I also want to get my certification as a CRNA — certified registered nurse anesthetist — to help people with pain management through surgery. I want to be able to help in such a painful process,” he said. 

As Cook looks to the future and prepares for his graduation in May, he is looking forward to things to come and using all the skills he gained at SVSU. 

“In areas that I used to struggle, I am now flourishing on my own. With all the practicing, clinicals, skills labs, internships and working with our own patients, I definitely feel prepared,” said Cook. 

“I’m most excited about being able to use the experience that I’ve gained and use it wherever I go.”