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Nursing student shifts gears to pay way through school

While most nursing students spend at least part of their time pushing patients in a four-wheel gurney, one Brigham Young University nurse alternates the gurney with an 18-wheel truck.

Rosaly Cook has driven a Peterbilt for six years as a way to help support herself through college. Trucking has been wedged between studies that have led to both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the medical field.After receiving her M.S. as a nurse practitioner Aug. 17, she's probably the only one among the summer graduates who regularly transports livestock to a high country summer range, hauls gravel for oil companies and jumps from her vehicle to offer medical assistance whenever she sees someone in need.

At a petite 5'3," it isn't unusual for Rosaly to encounter stares when driving in the rig that dwarfs her.

"I can't count how many times people have asked me if I could see over the steering wheel or if I have reached my 16th birthday yet," she explained. "I've had some proving to do."

The first person she needed to convince was her mother.

"Before I could obtain a chauffeur's license at 18, I practiced grinding gears on the family car to help get the feel of not using a clutch for changing truck gears. Mom was certain I'd get killed."

She received support, however, from her father, a Colorado trucker who drives with the motto, "You call. We'll haul." As an owner of two long trailer trucks, her father drove one truck and Rosaly drove the other.

The young driver has also worked to gain the approval of fellow drivers.

"I can do what they do," she said. "I've learned to run a loader and forklift. I've always liked machinery and between my dad and me, we've done all the mechanic work on the trucks.

"You know, not everybody can do this," she added. "People always think truck drivers are stupid, but they're not. The kind of driving I do is more complicated than merely taking a load down the highway. I'm in the mountains and the oil fields, and I have to be able to do considerable maneuvering."

She has no fear of the road, and the only time she sensed danger occurred with a blown front tire.

"You always have flats or pieces of rubber that fly off tires," she said. "People see them on the road all the time. Trucks have multiple tires to help hold the weight, and steering usually isn't too difficult if a side or back tire blows. I once asked my dad what would happen if a front tire went flat, and he said I wouldn't be able to keep the truck on the road.

"When it actually happened to me, I was on a bridge. I was afraid to use the brake for fear of toppling over, so I literally stood up in the cab and steered that way. When I got out, not only had the tire blown, but the wheel had actually fallen off; I was driving on the axle. I started to shake, but that didn't keep me from going on the road again," she recalled.

Although her career attention is now more focused on nursing than trucking, she frequently drives a truck when she visits her family in Colorado.

"I want to do everything I can in this life," she explained. "As a cow hand, I've ridden a range and branded cattle. I love the range life, life on the road and in a hospital. I like to do it all."

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