By Jessica Tanner
The BYU Tennis Club worked, sweated, and played hard this past weekend at the USTA Tennis on Campus regional tournament. Practice has paid off: BYU placed third at the tournament and qualified for nationals. Electra Cochran, a third-semester nursing student, leads the team as one of its co-captains. Balancing nursing with tennis and her other love, music, has been a challenge, but one that has blessed her life and lives of others.
Her first semester as a nursing student not only taught Cochran about nursing, but about life. “When I started the program my focus was only nursing,” she says. “And that semester was so hard. It really took a toll on me because I was just so focused on that one aspect of my life.” From there, she determined to incorporate the hobbies she loves most: tennis and music. Cochran has played tennis for eleven years, and in her second semester joined the BYU Tennis Club, shortly becoming one of three co-captains. A violinist, she also joined the university orchestra. “That semester was so much better,” she recalls. She had fun, felt healthy, and was able to do her schoolwork. “And I was able to feel more fulfilled at the end of the week.”
She has found there are many skills that easily transfer from nursing to tennis. “Nursing has taught me to work hard and critically think,” she explains. “Tennis is such a mental sport. Being able to keep calm in stressful situations and think through strategy… go hand-in-hand with things we’ve been working on in nursing.”
As nursing skills have influenced her hobbies, her hobbies have influenced her experiences in nursing and blessed others’ lives. One memorable experience was her first clinical in geriatrics. One patient in particular was a little rough around the edges at first, but they quickly bonded over one common love: the accordion. “She mentioned that when she was growing up her dad taught her to play,” Cochran explains. “And I also play the accordion.” The connection sparked an idea. Cochran asked the patient if she would play if Cochran brought her accordion the next week. The woman said she would. The next week she played the instrument she had not touched in 45 years.
“She [has] dementia, but when she started playing the accordion, it was like a lot of emotions and things came back to her,” Cochran remembers. But the accordion was only part of a more important service. “She just felt a little forgotten in that nursing home, and just having someone that cared about her made a big difference in her life. When I said bye to her that was the first time a patient had ever told me ‘I love you’. And that was a moment I’ll never forget.”
“I just realized that there is no mold that you have to fit to be a nurse,” Cochran says. “The most important thing is using your talents, your personality, to serve others.” Though tennis and music have given Cochran unique opportunities to serve, the most important part is simply caring. Cochran feels she still has a lot to learn, but she knows she can always choose to care.
Cochran and The BYU Tennis Club will continue on to the national championships in Arizona this April!