Student Spotlight: Valerie Lakes

Valerie Lakes waving

Class Year: 2025

Program: Master of Science in Nursing

Nursing is a second career for Valerie Lakes. Though growing up she was always interested in the STEM fields, the 35-year-old from Oxford, Ohio, spent five years teaching seventh grade near Columbus before becoming a nurse.

“When the time came to declare my undergraduate major I waffled between teaching and nursing. I was torn because both careers share the love of helping others,” Lakes said.

Lakes earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in education from The Ohio State University before deciding to change careers and moving to Sacred Heart University for her first Master of Science in Nursing.

Some of the care her family members received related to their health issues reinforced Lakes’ pivot to nursing.

“Witnessing the impact on the patient, and those close to the patient, motivates me to provide the safe, meaningful care and attention my family and I experienced in a very stressful and uncertain time,” she said. “I strive to provide that care so my patients get the attention they deserve.”

Lakes chose Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing for her third graduate degree because of its reputation for being student centered and for the esteemed faculty who make learning a priority. She’s also considering the school’s flight nursing specialty program and hopes to work as an advanced practice registered nurse in the Cleveland area after earning the degree.

“Nursing provides an ample supply of interesting and meaningful learning experiences on a regular basis. At Case Western Reserve, the most meaningful experience I have had so far is caring for a patient who recognized me as their nurse three years prior. They remembered all of the advice we talked about and were thankful for the care I provided,” Lakes said.

So what defines her experience as a nurse? Lakes said she is so dedicated to being a nurse that she would call a patient’s family any time of day to reinforce their level of trust in her care, because the real work is getting a patient back home.

In her free time, Lakes enjoys traveling to national parks, running half-marathons with her sister and spending time with family and her dogs.