When Richmond Hill native Kiara Farinacci crosses Georgia Southern University’s commencement stage in Savannah on Dec. 16 to earn a bachelor’s in nursing, the diploma will serve as both a source of pride and an emblem of the pediatric nurse who inspired the degree.
“When I was younger I used to be really sick,” said Farinacci. “I was always having to go to the doctor’s office to get shots and labs. There was this one nurse who used to stick herself every single time I had to get any sort of needle put in me. To this day I have never forgotten it.
“She was my biggest inspiration for wanting to do this because as a kid, hospitals and doctors offices are so scary. They’re full of unfamiliar smells, sounds and faces and tons of bright lights. That’s not comforting to a child. To have a nurse who was willing to stick herself to show me that it was going to be OK has always stayed with me.”
Farinacci’s long-standing fascination with science, and what the human body is capable of doing, also propelled her interest in nursing. Moving to Georgia Southern as a transfer student in her sophomore year, many classes remained online amidst the lingering haze of the pandemic, yet she thrived by engrossing herself in what she loved most. From the start, her professors emboldened her studies.
“I’m really fortunate to have had an amazing experience,” she explained. “I lucked out every semester with the professors, the instructors I had for clinicals and my lab instructors. They were all so motivating and encouraging. My first semester I absolutely loved the labs where we had our dummy dolls. I remember the long hours practicing our check-offs like new tubes, catheters and IVs. Getting to do our first blood draw on those patients was a surreal experience. I still have my tube of fake blood that I labeled.”
The vast amount of material she had to absorb and comprehend could be overwhelming at times, but her instructors encouraged her and introduced playful ways to retain the information.
“Nursing is hard because it has to be,” said Farinacci. “You’re taking care of somebody’s loved ones. I’d expect the absolute best care for my family if they were in the hospital. So you have to know your stuff and the information isn’t easy. But when you have professors who are willing to really simplify it, and give you those funny mnemonics that just click in your brain, it’s amazing. The professors love to see that light bulb go off. They applaud you and they always have something sweet to say.”
Paying it forward, Farinacci served as mentorship chair of the University’s Student Nurse Association in her first year. She also acted as a liaison between the various nursing cohorts and closed out her final year as president of the organization.
Per educational requirements, she participated in clinical rotations throughout various hospitals and health care facilities in Savannah. As the bilingual daughter of a Uruguayan mother and Puerto Rican father, Farinacci found it deeply rewarding to be able to help Spanish-speaking patients connect with their health care providers.
“I was able to really break through with the nurses and the health care providers and constantly be a mediator for their relationships,” she remembered. “They were able to build relationships with their doctors and nurses because finally everyone was able to talk. It was wonderful to see everybody start to connect and bond just because there was somebody in person who was able to speak to them.”
Farinacci will take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing exam in January and begin her career as a mother-baby nurse at Memorial Health in Savannah in February. She is ecstatic about the opportunity, after having completed a mother-baby rotation earlier this year.
“I absolutely fell in love with the aspect of taking care of new moms and new babies and the connection that I’ve been able to build with them,” Farinacci said cheerfully. “I love seeing families go home with their bundles of joy. I love active, patient communication. I’m looking forward to the connections that I’m going to make with so many different people with so many different life stories. I love learning from other people and their experiences.”
While her anticipation builds, the departure from Georgia Southern is bittersweet.
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to Georgia Southern,” Farinacci said. “Everybody really wants to see you succeed. I’m very fortunate to have gone to this school.”