From Housekeeping to Registered Nurse


How does a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries Biology end up landing you a job in the housekeeping department of your local hospital and ultimately lead to a position as a Registered Nurse?  Jennifer Meineke, RN at Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Medical-Surgical unit, can tell you.

Coming out of high school, Meineke, originally from Ohio, was looking to get away from the Midwest and landed in Laramie at the University of Wyoming (UW) where she graduated with the degree that had her working in federal and state fish hatcheries for approximately 20 years. Even though she loved her job and was good at it, she decided a different direction was needed in her life.

“As you age, your back starts hurting, and you start thinking long term and what you want to do with your life and nursing seemed like a good fit,” Meineke said. “I had been a volunteer at one of the local rural fire departments and really enjoyed interacting with the patients.”

It was at this time Meineke made a plan to reach her goal of becoming a nurse. So the next step, obviously, is landing a job in the SMH Environmental Services Department (EVS).  This really was part of her career plan.

“I thought working in housekeeping would give me a really good opportunity to get to know people from across the entire hospital,” Meineke explained. “I know at least one person in each department and I was able to see how they operate and work together. It made my transition into the RN position much easier.”

The other factor that made the EVS position so attractive was the fact her manager was able to work with her schedule. This was important as she took the leap to attend Sheridan College and complete her associate’s degree in nursing. Now she is enrolled at UW, again, this time for a bachelor’s in nursing.

“Luckily a lot of my credits from my previous fisheries degree were science related and transferred to my new degree. I didn’t realize fish and people were so similar,” she said with a chuckle. “Those credits were from classes like biology, genetics and statistics.”

Meineke reached her goal and is now serving as an RN in a Preceptorship at SMH and continues to fit in UW courses towards her bachelor’s degree. Looking back, she is very thankful for the SMH Foundation and specifically the Cato Scholar Award she received. The award is made possible by the Wayland H. Cato, Jr. and Marion R. Cato Foundation.

“That scholarship made a huge difference in my ability to pursue this dream of becoming a nurse,” Meineke said. “It allowed me to be able to do a Preceptorship at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper on the neurology floor. It was very valuable to see how things are done at a different hospital. I am very grateful to the Cato family members for their generosity and vision which supports the Foundation’s Clinical Scholarship Program.”

Meineke is also grateful for Laura Ray and Nicole Haley, the preceptors who are mentoring her as an RN in her current position at SMH.

“There have been a lot of people who have helped me get where I am today and Laura and Nicole have been great,” Meineke said.

She went on to say, “Ada (Kirven) has been very helpful with any Foundation questions I had. My previous EVS Manager Casey Cornell and the current EVS Manager Karen Wemple were always helpful in working with my schedule. Lacey (Johnson) and Meghan (Reinemer) in MedSurg have been very helpful and positive. Our CFO (Chief Financial Officer) Nathan Stutte really helped mentor me when I was helping lead the EVS team during COVID last year. I appreciated Nathan’s approach, he really understands the importance of showing people that you care.”

Meineke is scheduled to graduate from UW with her bachelor’s in nursing degree in August of 2022.