On Campus: The nurse and the biochemist

elaine_burns.jpg When I asked Elaine Burns of Minneapolis what her outlook for the future looks like, her answer hit me like a bucket of slush.

“Our outlook for the future is we want to get the heck out of here,” she said, bouncing one youngster on her knee as another begged for her attention nearby.

“Out of Minnesota?” I asked.

“Out of the United States,” she said. “We’re looking very seriously at moving to Canada after we both graduate. We’re kind of fed up, especially with the health care situation. We feel completely abandoned. We’ve been in and out of coverage by the state or by the companies my husband’s worked for and we just can’t do it. When we graduate, we’ll be in a much better position … but we’re, like, just forget it, we’re not going to participate in the system anymore; we want out.”

Her husband is a PhD candidate in biochemistry at the University of Minnesota. He graduated from Mankato State University after six years, went to work, then went back to school. Elaine went back to school after her youngest child was born,

They’re scraping by, she says. “My husband worked while he was in school. He was in construction. His dad has been able to help us out a little bit. Student loans, which with the current economic situation, is on our minds. Student loan money might not be there. He gets a small stipend, but we also worry about money from NIH (National Institutes of Health) drying up — research money for programs he’s in.”

“The health care is really scary. We’re covered by the U of M, but it’s still expensive. We don’t have dental. It’s always something; you always wonder what’s going to be the next thing that happens. When you’re living week-to-week, it only takes one catastrophe to put you under.”

She’s taking Spanish at Century College at the moment, hoping it will be the “golden ticket” to break into the nursing field. She wants to work somewhere — in Canada, apparently — with kids.

What does 5 years from now look like? “We’re hoping things will settle down for us and we have a regular life. A little house somewhere that we won’t have to move out of sometime in the near future,” she said.

In a typical day, she says her husband is gone 10 or 12 hours working in the lab, “and then doing classes. I go to school in the evening and then it’s midnight and I’m working on online courses and I’m, like, ‘We can’t do this for four more years.’ Then other days you just think about what it’ll be like when it’s over.”

Here’s a second helping of slush:

“There are people at this school that are doing way more than what we’re doing. Single parents with parents to take care of, working two jobs, and going to school; so I know it can be done,” she says.