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Alex Leonheart: A Heart for Helping


Alex Leonheart is a natural caregiver, helping his mother raise his two younger brothers so she could go to work. A Nursing student at Kirkwood Community College, Alex said the role of secondary parent sparked his interest in nursing, particularly pediatrics.

“I got to witness their milestones and stages of development while learning how to take care of them,” said Alex, 27.

Alex attended the University of Iowa, graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in Health and Human Physiology, but as he considered his next steps in his education, Alex found himself longing for smaller class sizes with greater student-instructor interaction.

He chose to enroll in Kirkwood’s Nursing program.

“I saw Kirkwood’s Nursing program as a cost-efficient program that would provide me with the same practical skills as a traditional 4-year program,” he said.

Soon after enrolling at Kirkwood, Alex realized he was where he needed to be. Not only was his education more affordable, but he was gaining the skills and knowledge to be a qualified medical professional in half the time it would have taken at a 4-year institution.

“Classes are smaller, so the instructors really get to know their students,” he said. “I enjoy the family atmosphere, as I am consistently asked how I am doing and advised of countless available resources. They genuinely want my classmates and I to succeed.”

Nursing is the largest health care profession in the United States. At a time when advancements in technology are making some professions obsolete, nursing remains a high-demand field. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates that employment among registered nurses will grow by 6 percent through 2032. About 193,000 openings for registered nurses are projected each year, on average, over the next eight years.

Financially, a career in nursing provides a stable future. While salaries depend on employers and state of practice, the median annual salary for registered nurses is $81,220, according to May 2022 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This number includes nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Flexibility is another perk of the profession. Depending on the employer and specialty, nurses have a say when it comes to working on a full-time, part-time, or on-call basis. While the basic workday for the average person is eight hours, five days per week, the average workday for nurses in long-term health facilities or hospitals is 12-hour shifts, three days or nights per week. However, there are also nursing jobs that fit the normal eight-hour day, five days per week.

Another reason to become a nurse is that nurses work together in a tight team unit; nursing is not a solo profession. Nurses interact and collaborate with each other and members of the healthcare team continually throughout their shifts. Because of this, nurses tend to form close bonds with their peers — a trait Alex has already experienced.

“I was fortunate to develop a strong bond with several of my peers and I have leaned on them because they are going through the same experiences and understand the struggles,” he said. “It is difficult trying to go through nursing school alone, so having a trusted peer group is a must.”

Alex is on track to graduate in the fall of 2024. After graduation, he hopes to return to Chicago in a nursing role that serves the Hispanic community, where his degree and dual language ability will help Spanish-speaking families receive the care they need.

“Just from my brief experiences working at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, you can see the room light up and the demeanor of Spanish-speaking patients change when someone can speak to them and they understand it,” Alex said. “The amount of apprehension and guard melts away, so I hope to provide this type of care.”

To learn more about Kirkwood’s Nursing program, visit