As a young single mother, Julia Beswick enrolled in Polk State College with the hopes of giving her children a better life. Now as a three-time graduate of the College, Beswick is helping mold future healthcare workers and create new Polk State graduates as an adjunct professor for nursing.
Beswick’s first experience at then Polk Community College came as a dual enrollment student at Winter Haven High School. Following high school graduation, however, she took time off and began working. Her two children, Audrie and Tamara, served as the inspiration to return to what is now Polk State.
“Having kids at a young age definitely influenced my decision to go back to school,” Beswick said. “As a young single mom, the deck is stacked against you. I didn’t want to be on the wrong side or have (my kids) be on the wrong side of that statistic.”
Stepping out of the box
Working at Winter Haven Hospital, Beswick benefited from the hospital’s tuition assistance program. Initially, her return didn’t go as well as Beswick had hoped, but she was introduced to someone who would have a major impact on her academic and professional career – clinical instructor Mimi Jenko.
“I was starting at the program and had a lot going on at home,” Beswick explained. “Mimi didn’t know any of us. I didn’t do great on the first exam. She pulled me aside and said she could tell this grade was not me. She asked if there was anything she could do to help, so I told her what was going on and she actually told me to withdraw for the semester and take care of things at home.”
Jenko was a revered professor at Polk State from 2011 to 2018, who went on to receive her Doctorate of Nursing from Duke University. Jenko was also a published author with many published scholarly articles and a chapter in the book, Techniques of Grief Therapy, which aims to teach nurses how to counsel those dealing with loss. With a $400,000 donation from Winter Haven Hospital to fund the position, Jenko was selected as just the second full-time professor to administer the Polk State Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program.
“I ended up graduating a year later than expected. (Jenko) was happy to see me when I came back and stayed in touch with me through graduation,” Beswick continued. “She was everything I strived to be as a nurse and an instructor.”
Beswick earned her first degree – a Polk State Associate in Science in Radiologic Technology – in 2005.
“At the time, radiology was in a transitional phase,” Beswick recalled. “The changes in technology really pulled me in that direction.”
Upon graduation, Beswick became a radiologic technologist at Winter Haven Hospital. Winter Haven Hospital is part of the BayCare Health System and one of Polk State’s many clinical partners.
“BayCare has been a steadfast partner with the Nursing Department at Polk State College for decades,” said Deleise Wilson, Polk State AdventHealth Dean of Nursing. “Together, we have shared resources and have elevated nursing practice in both the academic and service setting before this was a common practice. Perhaps nothing has been more important than preparing a nursing workforce by having our students gain invaluable experience in care delivery during their studies – and we are proud of the clinical outcomes our graduates achieve in the practice setting.”
After several years at the hospital, Beswick was again inspired to go back to school – this time by the nurses she worked with.
The next steps
As she continued to work as a radiologic technologist, Beswick returned to Polk State to pursue a degree and career in nursing. As was the case with the Radiography Program, Beswick said the instruction within the Nursing Program was exemplary.
“The knowledge of the faculty and their investment in the students were outstanding,” she added. “They were very invested in making sure students got the most out of the classes and the time they were putting in.”
Beswick earned her Associate in Science in Nursing in 2015. One year later, she completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree – an endeavor that has since led to advancement at Winter Haven Hospital.
“Getting a bachelor’s degree opens up more opportunities to climb the clinical ladder,” Beswick noted. “From a value of degree standpoint, it changes how you assess patients.”
Beswick began serving as an adjunct professor almost immediately after graduation. She’s been working in that capacity now for seven years.
“I developed great relationships with my instructors. When I finished my bachelor’s, they sort of recruited me,” Beswick added. “I really love having my clinical groups. Seeing their development and evolution in the clinical facility and watching the students go from timid and shy to ready to start their careers is the most rewarding thing. It’s a big jump.”
As her instructors did during her time as a student, Beswick takes it upon herself to make sure students are prepared to begin their careers after graduation. She reiterates the responsibility that comes with the job.
“Any time you start a program like this and make a dramatic shift in your life, it can be intimidating,” Beswick said. “Just by touching a person, you can either help them or hurt them. They have to be prepared.”
In addition to her three Polk State degrees, Beswick also holds a certification in Cardiovascular Technology from Polk State. She was promoted to supervisor in the cardiovascular unit at Winter Haven Hospital in December 2021. She hopes to complete her master’s degree from Capella University later this year.
“For anybody looking at any of the Polk State Health Sciences programs, you have to want it,” Beswick advised. “On the days where you don’t think you can make it, be strong and remember why you went into that program and that you can make it. Polk offers students a great opportunity. I’m proud to be a Polk State graduate and to be part of the staff.”