By Benjamin Wideman / Director of Media Relations
Brianna Neuser’s roots run deep in Manitowoc.
She was born and raised in this Lakeshore city.
She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1994 and lived here all but one year of her life.
And she worked as a nurse in this community for several years.
Now, in her fifth year at Silver Lake College, she’s continuing to care for her community by proudly spearheading the development of the school’s new four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program — the only one of its kind in the greater Manitowoc County region. The program, which is scheduled to begin next fall, will help address the area’s growing need for nurses as increasing numbers of nurses and people needing health care reach retirement age.
“Because of my ties to Manitowoc, I definitely have a vested interest in doing whatever I can to strengthen our community — and in this case that means helping educate nurses and prepare them to serve not only this area, but the whole state or wherever they end up working,” said Brianna, 39, the Assistant Dean of Silver Lake College’s School of Professional Studies.
“It’s a very surreal experience for somebody in the world of nursing to be the inaugural chair of a nursing program — and having it be in my hometown makes it even more special. I’m excited to be a part of this.”
Silver Lake College president Dr. Chris Domes said Brianna — a registered nurse and certified nurse educator who holds a master of science in nursing degree — is a perfect fit to lead this program.
“Brianna’s leadership in developing a four-year program has been invaluable in three key areas,” Dr. Domes said. “First, she has a strong background as a nurse. Second, she has put in a lot of work in this community to help people, and because of that many people like and respect her. And third, she has many professional connections in this community, which will be important as we continue to develop this program and work with community partners.
“Not only will Brianna be able to speak directly to our nursing students and help them in a variety of ways, but she will be able to connect with the broader community as well. I know she will continue to do a fantastic job.”
Brianna was introduced to the nursing profession early on by her mother, Lynn Tisler.
Lynn, a registered nurse who earned her bachelor’s degree from Silver Lake College, works in Manitowoc at Holy Family Memorial’s Heart & Vascular Center.
“My mom influenced my life so much — I grew up hearing a lot from her about the field of nursing,” Brianna said. “She has worked in several different areas throughout her career, so I learned about the different opportunities available in nursing through my mom. In my case, I knew that I’d be going into nursing probably as a junior in high school.”
While in high school, Brianna (maiden name Segler) worked as a hostess at her grandparents’ Manitowoc restaurant The Roadhouse (now the Four Seasons Restaurant). Her senior year, she explored nursing by becoming a certified nursing assistant. That set in motion a lifelong love affair with nursing.
“I’ve absolutely loved nursing from day one,” she said. “I’ve always been the type of person who cared about other individuals.”
After attending UW-Oshkosh as a freshman, Brianna moved back to Manitowoc and transferred to Bellin College in Green Bay, where she quickly evolved into a student leader and joined the Bellin Student Nursing Association and Ambassadors Club.
“As soon as I got there I knew that nursing was what I wanted to do,” Brianna said. “It felt so right. I finally had an opportunity to invest in an area of my life that meant so much to me — my education and working with others.”
As a college senior, Brianna interned in the surgical unit at HFM. Upon receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1998, Brianna received the college’s prestigious Lucyanna Hitch Award for Excellence.
Immediately after graduating, Brianna began working full-time at HFM in a unit that encompassed surgical, orthopedic, rehabilitation and pediatric responsibilities.
One year later, she joined Dr. Robert Greene at Holy Family Memorial’s Lakeshore Pediatrics. Over the course of the next four years, she also served in the emergency department at Holy Family Memorial because she wanted to balance her knowledge and skill set between pediatrics and the adult population.
“I wanted to make sure I had a well-rounded background in nursing,” Brianna said. “Through my work with Lakeshore Pediatrics, I was able to develop so many relationships with parents. I feel as though I was able to be an integral part of them taking care of their children, helping their children through illnesses as well as normal developmental stages. I think Lakeshore Pediatrics was, and still is, a really great team environment.”
In 2003, Brianna began taking master’s degree courses part-time at Concordia University in Mequon while working full-time at Lakeshore Pediatrics and occasionally in the HFM emergency department.
When asked why she pursued a master’s degree, Neuser replied: “I had recognized that one of my best qualities would be — I’m a really approachable person. I like to listen. I really enjoy being able to share what nursing means with others. I knew I could be a really excellent role model to incoming nursing students. I’m enthusiastic and passionate about nursing and wanted to share that with others.”
Before graduating from Concordia in 2006, Brianna began teaching as an adjunct clinical instructor at Bellin. That quickly transitioned to a full-time position as an instructor.
For much of the next five years, Brianna honed her academic skills at Bellin while maintaining her nursing roots by working part-time at HFM.
In 2011, Brianna was offered a position at Silver Lake College as the Director of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing completion program, and she has been there ever since.
The past few months have been devoted to laying the foundation for the college’s four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. In addition to developing a nursing curriculum, Brianna has been busy working on hiring faculty, securing clinical practicum sites and preparing for renovations to a large section of the third floor in Main Hall, which is where the clinical skills and simulation labs will be located.
It is anticipated that in spring the Wisconsin Board of Nursing will authorize Silver Lake College’s School of Nursing to begin admitting students.
The program will be especially beneficial to Manitowoc County, which has a disproportionate number of residents over the age of 65 compared to the rest of the country. According to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 18.6 percent of Manitowoc County’s population is over the age of 65, compared with 14.5 percent across the United States. As the county’s population ages, its elderly population will require greater access to acute care and nursing services.
To help prepare the next generation of nursing students for an increase in older patients, Brianna would like to return to the classroom and teach part of the entry into nursing practice course, as well as perhaps a capstone course.
“A part of nursing I do miss is working hands on with students in a clinical setting, because in that environment you get to know someone very intimately and you see them grow as a person both personally and professionally,” Brianna said. “It’s exciting, because you see the immediate gratification and impact you have on the students and patients and everyone’s families. I miss passing on that energy, that excitement, about nursing to the students so directly. It will be nice to do that again.”