On a good night, Eric Zimmerman gets about four hours of sleep.
As a high-school senior supporting himself financially, four hours is all he can spare.
Although he doesn't have a high-school diploma, Zimmerman's already has earned his certified nurse assistant credentials and works at Sand Rock Ridge Care and Rehab. Most days, he works there until midnight, helping the senior- citizen residents, then comes home and does homework until 3 a.m.
His life's been like that for the past few years.
"When I get home, I have time to throw on a uniform, grab my pressure cuff and I'm out the door," he said.
The money he earns pays his bills -- apartment rent, food and insurance for the Camaro he just bought. With a six-speed manual transmission and 5.7-liter V-8 engine, it's "the most tricked out Camaro in town," he said.
Zimmerman moved here from Rawlins, Wyo., in August. He was having some legal trouble in Rawlins and knew he had to get out of that city. His sister, Jennifer Zimmerman, teaches geometry at the high school, so coming to Craig made sense.
One month later he was employed at Sand Rock Ridge. He'd worked hard just to get the job. To earn his assistant nurse certification, he did four hours of homework a night on top of his regular studies. He studied medical terminology, health care and first aid.
He admits his high school grades fell. Clinicals -- where he demonstrated his knowledge hands-on -- took place twice a week, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and forced him to miss school.
Not too long ago, Zimmerman wanted to be a meteorologist. But after getting his CNA, he decided to earn his bachelor's of science and nursing degree.
He can take advantage of the nursing shortage and specifically the lack of male nurses.
He can help others in a personal way, as well.
Zimmerman was born with a cleft hand. His left hand is like everyone else's, but his right hand has only two large fingers. Growing up, he went to specialists in Salt Lake City regularly but that found their advice wasn't particularly helpful.
"It's annoying to listen to them tell you how life is going to be," Zimmerman said.
In elementary school, children teased him about his hand, and it continued through high school. But Zimmerman doesn't let it get to him anymore.
"I eventually realized I didn't care what anybody said," he said.
As a nurse, he thinks he could help children with disabilities or deformities cope with teasing and other challenges.
"God made you like this, and whoever wants to dish it out has their own issues. I'd rather listen to myself than someone else," he said.
After earning his nursing certification at Colorado Northwestern Community Coll-ege, Zimmerman plans to transfer to a university in Grand Junction or Salt Lake City to complete his bachelor's degree. Ultimately, he hopes to work at Shriner's Hospital in Salt Lake City, helping children with whom he can identify.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.