A Calling from the Heart

24 years in military service helped this Mizzou grad discover his true calling to serve. Despite the challenges and the passage of time, John "Theo" Theobald proved that age does not hinder one's dreams when they put their mind to it.

John “Theo” Theobald’s journey to becoming a nurse is a testament to the power of determination, resilience and the unwavering desire to serve others. After 24 years of military service, Theo decided to pursue his true calling: nursing. Despite the challenges and the passage of time, he proved that age does not hinder one’s dreams when they put their mind to it.

Interviewed by Casey Wendleton

Why did you choose Mizzou?

I’m from Missouri and if you’re from Missouri, Mizzou is the school, right? Plus, I looked at the Sinclair School of Nursing and their success rates for the NCLEX and it’s really high! They’re really well-respected, so I made that my preference.

What led you to choose nursing and ultimately the Sinclair School of Nursing?

The school just had a great reputation nationally, but the other thing is I was in the Army for 24 years and I missed being part of a team and I missed serving. I went into another job career field and was finding success there, but I just wasn’t happy because I didn’t have that teamwork and that’s what nursing brings you. Especially as a Mizzou Nurse…you get a lot of teamwork.

Have you always had this calling to be there for people and to help people that are in need?

Yes, to some degree – absolutely. I mean I joined the army when I was 17 so serving has been a part of everything I’ve done for most of my adult life. Honestly, I do it because I just want to help people.

Have your initial reasons for nursing or choice in career changed since you began the clinical program?

In the sense of being a nurse, no. I still 100% desire to be a nurse but I did find that I really enjoyed pediatrics and I’ve really enjoyed psychiatric nursing. I accepted a position at MU Psychiatric Center here in Columbia at the hospital upon graduation.

Awesome but that was not what you originally were focused on?

Yeah, I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t have guessed that I would have enjoyed psych nursing as much as I have. That was kind of a surprise, but pediatrics and psych nursing is best of both worlds for me, and it is just something that kind of started unfolding while I was here.

Is there any one aspect of pediatric psych which appeals to you the most?

One is that I have a heart for kids. There are so many kids that are hurting out there with challenges that my generation didn’t have to face. Like cyberbullying, that stuff just didn’t exist. We maybe had bullying but not in the sense that it was 24 -7 in front of these kid. They’re just suffering. Being able to help these kids whether it’s for three, four, five days, or a couple weeks -whatever it may turn out to be, is just something I felt called to do.

Has balancing the stress and demands of school and the clinical program prepared you for your career as a nurse?

I hope so, right? And I honestly believe it has. The clinical teaching here and the didactic teaching is just tremendous. You can’t get better teaching than what they offer you here at SSON. I’m in the accelerated program so you must be ready to be able to balance and just accept the work that’s going to be put on your shoulders. I mean, any time that you are testing yourself, I think it helps you rebound in the workplace and build your resiliency. All those things are always good for you.

How do you feel you have been set up for success? Has there been anyone who has been instrumental in that?

Here’s what I would tell you and I brag about the Sinclair School of Nursing, there’s not a person in this building that doesn’t want to see you succeed as a nurse.

Every single one of my clinical instructors, every one of my classroom instructors, have all been great. Even people who haven’t been my instructors have made time to help me. And I tell ya, there is nobody here that does want to see me succeed. So, if you come to this school and you get accepted into the nursing program, you can be assured that everybody has your back and is going to encourage you the best they can.

Do you see in your field there being additional levels of stress that other professions may not face in their chosen careers? Have you acquired any tools or resources to help you?

Being an older student, I have had life experiences, but I will tell you what the biggest challenge is. It’s hard to explain what a 12-hour shift is like. There are definitely challenges that you’ve got to deal with because you’re not just dealing with people’s physical health, there’s a mental health aspect to it as well. There is also a psychosocial aspect to dealing with human beings. They’re so unique and that can add some stress but the more you engage people the better you’re going to get at it, along with asking for help when you don’t get it right.

Do you have any aspirations to continue your education in nursing?

I always aspire toward education. Education is something that, when I was growing up, wasn’t even brought up to me so now I’m kind of addicted to it. I think I’ve been going to school ever since I turned 21, in one capacity or another.

Work life balance – what are some things that you enjoy doing aside from nursing?

I love working out of my shop. I love working with wood, that’s my favorite medium. I make all kinds of things. I do cutting boards, picture frames, I turn bowls, all kinds of stuff. I also love taking time with the family too. Whether it’s fishing or taking a hike.

What advice would you give a pre-nursing student starting down a nursing path? 

Pre-nursing: I’d tell you to try to get and pay attention to as much of your hard sciences. You must have that stuff down. It will prepare you, especially in pre-nursing here at Mizzou. Pathophysiology is taught in the pre-nursing and that class shouldn’t be taken lightly; you really need that information. You need to buckle down and understand what you’re dealing with there, it’s going to help you tremendously once you start the clinical and the upper grad classes of the actual nursing program. I’ll tell you, if you’re planning to become a nurse you just have to buckle down and understand that this is a hard degree. It’s not impossible, but it’s challenging and it’s time demanding so you really must put this at the forefront of what you want to do if being a nurse is your calling.

What advice would you give a 7th semester clinical student or an accelerated student starting their practicum?

I would again say to buckle down and make the most of every opportunity that you have. You’re also approaching the end and so part of what you should be doing in your clinicals is networking to figure out people’s opinions on things and your own opinion on what type of job you may want to do.

Mental stress management – is there anything that you suggest as ways to manage your time or resources that really helped you?

First thing is know that you’re not in competition with the other students here. It is not a competition of who’s going to win and who’s going to be the best. It’s a team effort and so you need to really rely on your clinical group, especially. That’s your tightest group, you know, the six of us have really formed a bond. We spend time together in and outside of the classrooms. The other thing is, again, there’s not a person here that works in this school that you can’t go and talk to. As I look around, I could just keep naming off people who are willing to sit and talk with you when you’re having struggles.

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