Nursing graduate Olyvia VandenBrink starting position as labor and delivery nurse at Mercy Hospital St. Louis

by | Jun 7, 2024

In addition to helping moms through the labor and delivery process, she’ll also work in the antepartum and triage units, as well as the Mercy Natural Birthing Center.
Olyvia VandenBrink

Olyvia VandenBrink, who graduated last month with her BSN, along with a certificate from the Pierre Laclede Honors College, will soon start working as a labor and delivery nurse at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

The first time Olyvia VandenBrink witnessed a birth while completing a nursing rotation at BJC HealthCare, she burst into tears.

“I was like, ‘This is it,’” she said. “’This is the moment, this is where I need to be.’”

Although nursing had been a passion of hers since high school, labor and delivery specifically was not really on her radar until that experience during her senior year in the College of Nursing at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. After that fateful moment, she said, everything quickly fell into place. She interviewed for a position as a labor and delivery nurse at Mercy Hospital St. Louis and got a call back just 15 minutes after walking out of the unit letting her know she’d gotten the job.

In early July, VandenBrink will start her new position after graduating with her BSN, along with a certificate from the Pierre Laclede Honors College, last month. In addition to helping moms through the labor and delivery process, she’ll also have the opportunity to learn and grow as a nurse by working in the antepartum and triage units, as well as the Mercy Natural Birthing Center.

VandenBrink feels her hands-on experience in the College of Nursing – particularly during senior synthesis – has more than prepared her for these next steps. Since starting clinical experience during her junior year, she was able to work in an orthopedic unit at Mercy, in a pediatric unit at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and in the labor and delivery units at both BJC and Mercy. Assistant Teaching Professor Christine DiRie also encouraged her to take advantage of opportunities that she otherwise wouldn’t have, including an externship over winter break. While she was initially disappointed to miss out on holiday plans with her family, she credits the externship with helping her land the position at Mercy.

“She was a motivator, and she was someone I could go to after a really hard shift or if I had a patient pass away,” VandenBrink said. “She was a huge support emotionally for me after some of the transitions that we went through in nursing school.”

VandenBrink also completed her senior preceptorship in the same labor and delivery unit at Mercy where she’ll soon be working full-time, helping her get to know the nurses she’ll be working alongside and making for a seamless transition into the next phase of her career.

“UMSL’s nursing program definitely has gotten me to a place that I wouldn’t otherwise be,” she said. “It gave us just an incredible amount of hands-on experience. We were able to do interventions on patients, we were able to follow a nurse and see what it could look like. That’s what helped me decide on OB because I was able to be a part of that birth in a way that I had never even known was possible as a nursing student.”

VandenBrink first took an interest in nursing during high school at Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, where she was exposed to lots of opportunities in the medical field, such as cadaver labs on Saturday mornings.

While touring the College of Nursing at UMSL, she found out about the Honors College and was immediately drawn to the smaller classroom settings, discussion-based classes, emphasis on writing and the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and other students. She initially interviewed for the Honors College during high school and so was able to start immediately upon coming to UMSL, which she felt was a major advantage.

“It felt like a much more collaborative environment,” she said. “College felt a little bit intimidating with the massive lecture-style classes, but the Honors College was about 15 to 20 students, and it felt a little bit more familiar from my high school time, so it was a much better transition. I also came from a pretty rigorous high school, so I really wanted to make sure that I still had the challenge and I didn’t know exactly what I was walking into for college. It was a really good mix of all that.”

VandenBrink started at UMSL not long after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and said it was an odd experience taking anatomy and physiology classes on Zoom and being so isolated from other students, including her roommates in Oak Hall, during her freshman year. But she did have her now-husband, Benjamin VandenBrink, a business student and student-athlete, along for the ride. The two have known each other since they were 6 years old – Benjamin’s father is the pastor at their church – and attended the same high school before heading to UMSL. They both lived on campus freshman year and got married over the summer before sophomore year.

“Due to the nature of college at UMSL being pretty affordable, we were able to manage college and also getting married at the same time, so it was a really cool opportunity to be able to do all that,” VandenBrink said. “He has been a part of the cross country and track team, so I got to be on the sidelines of that and be a part of all the team functions, and he was a huge support to me being able to go to nursing school, helping cook dinners and just kind of be my best friend through all of that. It has been a wonderful experience going through college with him.”

At some point in the future, VandenBrink hopes to continue to advance her career and become a nurse practitioner. For now, though, she’s focused on making the most of her new role as a labor and delivery nurse.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to be a part of a mom’s moment of becoming a new mom and learning all the different aspects of labor and delivery,” she said. “I’ve tried to learn work/life balance with doing my senior synthesis hours and also trying to manage a busy nursing school schedule, and I think that I’ve been taught a lot of tips and tricks for how to continue to flourish as a person. I am definitely excited to continue into this next stage.”

Heather Riske

Heather Riske