Hi there! Science Cheerleader Hilary here to introduce you to Laura, a registered nurse and current Miami Dolphins cheerleader! Read on below to learn all about her.

Laura is in her second season of cheering with the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders and holds a degree in nursing from Florida Gulf Coast University. She currently balances cheering for her favorite football team and being a registered nurse!
What turned you on to science and when?
My grandmother and aunt were both nurses so I grew up with a lot of influence from nurses. I was always interested in science and medicine, and I have wanted to be a nurse ever since I can remember. I find the field to be so fascinating. Additionally, I had a strong personal connection to the field. My parents always tell me stories about how they spent countless weeks in a hospital when I was younger because I was an extremely sick infant. They tell me how caring the nurses were and, although they are grateful for the doctors that helped me, it was the nurses who always got them through some of the tough times. If it weren’t for the amazing medical staff I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  My parents’ stories have inspired me to be a part of the medical field so that I can give back and have an influence on people lives like others did on mine and my parents’.
Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I wanted to be a professional cheerleader since I was a little girl. While growing up, I was both a cheerleader and a dancer. The older I got, the more I realized I would love to share the passion I had for cheering and dancing, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than to cheer on my hometown football team. As a Miami native, I grew up going to Miami Dolphins football games; my family and I are all big fans. In fact, my mother was also a Miami Dolphins cheerleader when she was younger!
Please describe what you do in your science career on a daily basis.
I work in a hospital in the Emergency department as a registered nurse.  As a nurse, I work three shifts a week, and each shift is 12 hours long. My current shift is from 1 pm to 1 am. As an emergency room nurse, I treat patients in emergency situations that may have been through trauma or injury. I start my shift by taking report from the RN on the previous shift and then spend the day handling each situation that comes my way. I work very closely with doctors and other health professionals. I provide rapid assessment and treatment to patients that are ill or in life-threatening situations.  The emergency room provides for a very fast-paced setting where I use a lot of critical thinking and time management skills to provide safe and high quality care to every patient that enters our department. I also spend a lot of time educating patients so they can better understand what is going on and hopefully ease their minds when they are in scary and difficult situation.  I believe my profession gives me the opportunity every day to make a difference in peoples lives.
What does it mean for you to be a nurse?
It is truly rewarding to be a nurse and to have a career as a health professional. To me, to be a nurse means to be caring and compassionate and to have the skills to be able to aid other health professionals to save the lives of individuals. Nurses are tasked with a great deal of health care responsibilities. I do not take my responsibility lightly and I hope to possibly one day further my education in this field. This profession means so much to me and I feel truly blessed to be apart of it.
How do the qualities that make/made you a great cheerleader benefit you in your science career?
 Two of the main qualities that make a great cheerleader are having a positive attitude and being a team player.  Coincidentally, I find these to be two of the most important qualities of a nurse, especially an emergency room nurse. We are all human and cannot do everything ourselves. Teamwork is an essential element of patient care and, in emergent situations, can mean the difference between life and death. In my department specifically, we work everyday along side numerous people in the health profession to create the best patient outcome. As a nurse, it is also especially important to have a positive attitude. Every day we work with patients who are likely going through a difficult time; we have to stay positive to keep their spirits high and make their hospital experience as pleasurable as possible. One of the many things I have learned in this career is that our attitude has a rippling effect.
How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders [or being a woman in a STEM field]?
With all the stereotypes about cheerleaders I can truly say that each and every time I am asked what I do outside of cheerleading, I am so incredibly proud to say that I work in the medical field.  It is so meaningful to me to be able to say that I am an educated, independent, and confident woman who also enjoys being a professional cheerleader. I hope that I can be an example to change peoples’ impressions about cheerleaders. There have been multiple times when I am approached and asked if cheerleaders have careers or what we do with our “free time” and I am so blessed and proud to say I don’t have a lot of free time because I have a full-time, successful career. And I’m proud to say that my teammates do, as well. Unfortunately, cheerleaders are sometimes misunderstood. What people don’t understand is that to be a professional cheerleader, most of us also have to be a full-time student or have a full-time job to support ourselves. It is important to me that we change the way cheerleaders are perceived.  It takes a lot of time management to be a professional cheerleader and have a career, but it is also extremely rewarding. I am proud of the women we are and look forward to the day everyone realizes how hard we work to do what we love for both our hobbies and our careers.
Best cheerleading experience?
Every single opportunity I have—both on and off the field—to perform as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader or represent the franchise is amazing. My favorite experience thus far was making an appearance and cheering at the start of the race for the Dolphins Cycling Challenge. The DCC is an event that started in 2010 and 100% of its participant-raised funds is donated to innovative cancer research at he Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Not only did I meet incredible people with life-changing stories, but I also got to be a part of great cause that is closely related to my professional career. An equally enjoyable and favorite experience of mine was traveling to the Navy base in the Keys just a couple months ago. I was able to perform for and meet amazing brave men and women. Being a professional cheerleader opens you up to so many incredible opportunities that are extremely eye-opening and life-changing.
Best health-related experience?
My best health-related experience was when I got to be a part of a special reunion that is put on every year by my previous employer. Before the ER I worked in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit).  Each year our department held a special day called the “NICU Reunion” where families who had spent anywhere from a couple days to several months in our department could come back and visit with the medical staff that helped care for their baby.  It was incredible to see that babies we once thought might not make it to had grown into toddlers, and to see their forever grateful families.  It was at that event that I realized how much I absolutely love what I do.  Words cannot explain what it means to me to be able to make such a difference in so many peoples’ lives on a daily basis.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Never give up. Anything and everything is possible if you put your mind, effort, and heart into it. I would also tell myself that life is short so always do what makes you happy.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
When I tell people that I am from Miami, they would never guess or believe that I was raised on a farm. People would be surprised to learn that despite my city roots, I am a country girl at heart. I grew up on a five-acre farm right on the outskirts of the city with many exotic animals–cows, horses, goats, emus, pigs, wallabies, dogs, buffalo, bulls, and deer—all of which were pets. All of our pets were bottle-fed and hand-raised. I also used to drive a Ford F150 truck and I know all the lyrics to every country song!

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