I had known I wanted to be a nurse since I was a child. I used to wrap my stuffed animals, friends, and family in bandages and always tried to help others. But getting there wasn’t easy.
I had a hard upbringing with a single mom and a father who was a refugee from the Czech Republic. My father had struggles of his own, so it wasn’t surprising when he disappeared from my life completely when I was in my early 20s. And during my teenage years, my relationship with him caused me a lot of distress.
I dropped out of high school during my sophomore year, leaving my family disappointed and not very hopeful.
I was asked to leave my home, so I started living with a friend to get by. But after couch surfing for a few years, I learned that friendly handouts and hospitality are not enough to sustain a life, so I applied to college.
I was emancipated at 17 and earned my GED, so I was legally allowed to admit myself to a local university in New Mexico. That’s when I decided to pursue nursing. But my inner turmoil and the lack of support from my family drained my motivation to complete my degree, and I dropped out.
Life Goes On
I got married at 19, and my husband at the time encouraged me to pursue a job that made me feel happy. I found a fast-track medical assistant program for $3,800 that would let me sit for the national CMA certificate after only six months. After completing the program, I landed my first job at a pediatric office and quickly found out that peds wasn’t for me. I couldn’t stand to see children in pain.
I started working at an urgent care center in Tucson, Arizona, where I met a doctor who encouraged me. He went on and on for hours one day about how smart I was and how I needed to become a registered nurse.
I argued with him. I didn’t think I was capable of finishing college after years of failure. But six months later I divorced my husband and moved back to Phoenix to pursue my dreams.
I was a 21-year-old divorcee, returning to college with only a sophomore high school education. I studied for weeks to test into 101 classes again so I could avoid classes that did not count for credit. I was on my way, but a meeting with a counselor to make my nursing major official took the wind out of my sails.
It turns out there was a three-year waiting list for any nursing program, and the university I hoped to attend would not accept any students with less than a 3.8 GPA and high TEAS scores. Everyone told me it was impossible to get in. I spent many nights crying about it.
Each class was harder than the next, but I told myself that even though I hadn’t gotten an A since middle school, I would have to find a way to do it because I needed to stand out. And I did.
After achieving a high GPA, I transferred to a university and graduated from one of the most competitive nursing programs in Arizona. I spent two years in a cardiac step-down unit and excelled in my career.
Setting Another Goal
A medical resident who was a close friend of mine always encouraged me to do more. He reminded me of the orthopedic doctor who pushed me to keep going. I listened to his advice and applied to a competitive Doctor of Nurse Practice program.
I was accepted!
During the first half of the program, I got married, had a baby, endured a pandemic, lived off student loans, experienced health challenges related to a work-related tuberculosis exposure, and more. Thankfully, I had the support of my husband and mom through it all, which meant the world to me.
It’s not easy to stay focused, especially when life happens, but if you really want something, you have to tell yourself you can achieve it and never give up.
Over the course of my entire life, I seldom believed in myself. I thought I was stupid. I swore I would never return to school. And when I did, I never thought I’d become a nurse. But I always kept going. I would tell myself, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I will find a way.” When I changed my thinking, I changed my life.
I encourage all of you who are contemplating, enduring, and aspiring to keep going until you meet your goals. Take a break, cry, scream, laugh, wipe your tears, and keep going.
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