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'It's definitely been a bit chaotic': Former Zag Elle Tinkle helps others as nurse during pandemic

Tinkle is still the only Gonzaga basketball player, men's or women's, to graduate with a nursing degree.

SPOKANE, Wash. — There’s only one player in Gonzaga men's or women's basketball history who has graduated with a nursing degree. 

That player is Elle Tinkle.

"It’s definitely been a bit chaotic," said the former Gonzaga guard about the past few weeks. "In one 12-hour shift it was like the way we were doing things was changing every three hours. In a matter of just having a couple days off, we’d come back and our policy or procedure had totally changed."

Tinkle is an oncology nurse in Vancouver, Washington, which means her contact with the virus has been limited due to the cancer patients she regularly works with. That doesn’t mean coronavirus hasn’t impacted her work, though.

"Patients feel it. Every single patient has the news on in their room," Tinkle said. "They know what’s looming over them. We just have to try to alleviate that worry as much as possible."

The Montana native also says that in some ways her basketball career helped prepare her mentally for this stressful time.

"It involves having this critical thinking and deliberate judgement that, 'Okay, this is go time.' Every time I go to work I can’t be timid or worrisome because I don’t want my patients to perceive that in me. Kind of rising up to the challenge that this is it, this is our next challenge," Tinkle said.

Elle jumped through hoops, metaphorically and literally, to get her nursing degree at GU. There’s a reason why she’s still the only Gonzaga basketball player to do it, but she knows she’s exactly where she needs to be.

"This is exactly why I decided to do this several years ago. I wanted to feel like I was having a direct impact on people’s care, and I feel like I am."

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