Alumna pays it forward with nursing kits for students 

Alumna pays it forward with nursing kits for students 

Shawna Stewart '15 poses for a photo while holding a box containing The Starter Kit, which she created for nursing students.Growing up, Shawna Stewart ’15 was drawn to the medical field in order to care for people. Now working as a nurse in Detroit, she’s trying to help make things more affordable for nursing students. 

In 2020, the University of Detroit Mercy alumna launched The Starter Kit, a box of essential tools for nursing students as they progress through nursing school and clinicals.  

Stewart’s own college experience inspired the idea. She shared a car with her mother while attending UDM and remembers how difficult it was finding the tools she needed as a nursing student. 

“I know how I struggled financially in nursing school and spent a lot of time trying to get scholarships. On top of tuition and needing supplies for clinicals and classrooms, there’s all the running around it takes to get those things,” Stewart said. “If I had a convenient package that was affordable, that would’ve been so beneficial to me. It would’ve cut down on a lot of time that I could’ve either been studying or working in a hospital, honing my craft.” 

Friends and colleagues of Stewart shared similar sentiments when she told them of her idea. After building relationships with vendors for tools and doing online crowdfunding, Stewart was ready to assemble her kits. 

The Starter Kit is available in two versions: basic and deluxe. A manual blood pressure cuff, trauma shears, pen light, badge clip and holder, storage clipboard and Littmann stethoscope are in the basic version. The deluxe kit has all that, but features a higher-grade Littmann stethoscope and the addition of a pulse oximeter. 

Stewart always saw a future for herself in medicine. As it did with creating The Starter Kit, life experiences led her to nursing. She’s spent the last seven years working as a nurse in Detroit and is transitioning to Detroit Medical Center’s Harper University Hospital to work with hemodialysis patients. 

“As a child, I had ailing family members that I helped care for,” she said. “My grandmother, she passed from heart failure when I was 10 years old and I helped take care of my great-grandmother. I always had a call toward the medical field.” 

The small size of the McNichols Campus stood out to Stewart as she looked for a college that “felt like home” where she could study nursing. 

“I was able to access everything, study with people, and I knew mostly everyone in my cohort. That’s what really drew me to Detroit Mercy,” Stewart said. “I love the school and connection. I built great relationships with friends and nurses that I maintain contact with. We’re in so many different areas of nursing. I have conversations a lot, especially since COVID, with nurses I attended UDM with. You just build and maintain these relationships.” 

Relationships as a whole have been significant to Stewart as a nurse. 

“I guess that’s why I went into nursing versus becoming a physician. I like being at the bedside and caring for the patient holistically. Especially with COVID, when people were unable to connect with their loved ones face-to-face, you are the person at the bedside while they’re probably in one of the worst moments of their lives.” 

Learn more about The Starter Kit.