In this episode of the career interview series, we are joined by Marissa Allen. Marissa is a Pediatric Emergency Room (ER) Registered Nurse (RN) hailing from Durham, North Carolina and currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia.
As with most of the other interviews, we’ll spend some time discussing Marissa’s background. But, because Marissa is still relatively early in her career, we’re going to take a deep dive into her training to become an RN, the job search process, and orientation.
- Depending on what you’re learning, college or training programs can be hard. But college and training programs just provide you with a foundation and some exposure to a field. Working on the job is where you learn the real stuff. I like Marissa’s example of training being like reading the instructions before you put together a piece of furniture. You don’t fully grasp what it entails until you’re physically putting the furniture together.
- You can become engrossed in work where all you think about is work, even when you’re at home. This can result in you neglecting your personal life or taking time to rejuvenate yourself which can lead to stress. But, for your own health and sanity, you need to practice self-care and take physical and mental breaks from work.
- Regardless of how great the opportunities for a career might be, it’s not going to be the right career for everyone. Don’t let society push you into an occupation that’s not for you. Don’t allow money to push you into a career that’s not for you. Pick something that interests or excites you. If you don’t enjoy your job, it’s not going to fulfill you and there’s a chance that it will make you miserable.
- Only some and probably a minority of young people are going to get the exact job that they want right away. But, you have to trust the process. You might not immediately get the title you want, the salary you want, the responsibilities you want, etc. But, you still have to work. The things you want may not come easy or overnight but you’ll get there if you put in the work. Be kind to yourself and be honest about what you want and what you can and can’t do.
Learn More About Marissa
- Connect with Marissa on LinkedIn.
We are joined today by Marissa Allen, a Pediatric Emergency Room (ER) Registered Nurse (RN). Thank you for joining me on Noire Histoir. To get started, if you could give me a brief overview of your background. Where are you from and where’s your family from as well?
My family and I are from a small town, Durham, North Carolina, born and raised.
What were your interests as a kid or what kind of kid were you?
I was a very imagine it’s like a kid who liked to imagine that a lot of things. I was the only child for about nine or 10 years. I really loved to put on little shows and I love entertainment. I don’t know how I didn’t end up in the entertainment industry, but I really loved that. But, my mom told me that when I was little, I always told her I wanted to be a doctor or nurse. I don’t remember that. But she always says that and I mean, I know she’s not lying or whatever. So she always said I wanted to do that. And, I was always the person in my family that took care of people or wanted to like babysit or somebody was hurt or even if it was a mental feeling that somebody need us to talk to. I always wanted to nurture people. So, definitely my occupation it’s aligned with characteristics of my childhood.
What kind of a student were you?
I was a B student, not a straight A, I got a couple of B’s. But, I was always on the honor roll. I loved school. School was great. I loved to learn. It was just very fulfilling to me and I don’t even really think I understood how much I enjoyed it until I’ve become older. I just crave knowledge and that’s what school is all about. So I really loved school. I always did pretty well, never had any issues.
What were your favorite subjects or if you just had one, what was it?
My favorite subject was I would say history. And then I would say second would be science. History because I love stories. I love storytelling and that’s what history is to me. It’s just listening to all these old things that have happened. So I really enjoyed that. And science really piques my interest because it’s basically finding out the “why” to just different things. And I, like I said, I love knowledge, so I like to know why. So science was always a big thing for me as well.
You lived in Durham throughout your childhood, correct? And while living in Durham, you attended high school. Did you work while you were in high school or did your parents have you just focus on school and academics?
I actually started working at about 14 or 15. It wasn’t a requirement. It was something I actually wanted to do. I just came home one day and I was like, “Mom, I think I want to get a job.” And it really stems from wanting to have my own money. I’ve always been pretty independent. She was like, “Okay, we can get you a job.”
So I started working at this, like mom and pop grocery store and I stayed there probably the entire time through high school. Maybe not the freshman year but maybe sophomore to senior year. I stayed there and I was able to do AP classes, you know, keep up with school. I was a cheerleader, I did dance, I was in other activities as well. So I was able to balance it all pretty well.
College / Training
You eventually graduated from high school. What was the process for you deciding on the college that you wanted to attend? Had other people in your family already been to school? What was that process like for you selecting the school for college?
The process from transitioning from high school to college had not necessarily been done. My mother graduated from high school, she went to college, but she didn’t finish. My uncle, her baby brother, graduated from high school, went to college, did not finish. I had other relatives that went to college, but it was later in life, much later.
So for me it was kind of, it’s not technically first generation, but my family looks at it as first generation. I was the first one to actually go from high school transition immediately into college and that was really off the strength of me wanting to go so much.
But my mom was definitely such a big force. She didn’t want me to make the same mistakes and she wanted me to have better opportunities. Nobody really knew what it was like to go to college for four years away from home. And she wanted me to have that experience. We got started early, probably about 11th grade and she was asking me where I wanted to go and I really had no idea. I knew I wanted to go a ways away from home. I did not want to stay in Durham.
I’ve always been very, what’s the word? I’ve always been very curious, very inquisitive. And I knew I wasn’t going to get the experience I needed by staying in Durham. Some people did, that’s for them. But for me, I needed to go away. So I did tours through my school. They would take us on field trips to see certain colleges and I got exposure that way. And then I just started listening to other people that had graduated before me and how they liked certain schools. I toured UNCG, which is University of North Carolina of Greensboro. And I toured University of North Carolina of Charlotte. I did not want to go to Charlotte. Not that was bad, but, I had never…Charlotte, it’s like a big city in North Carolina, so it kind of scared me a little bit.
And then, I talked to one of my favorite cousins. She had went there and she was like, “You really have to come. You’re going to love it, I promise.” As she was telling me that in my mind I’m like, “Yeah right. Okay, I’m going to love it.” But, I went to USCG first and fell in love. I was like, I want to go to UNCG. And then maybe about a week or two later, me and my mom, took the tour to UNC Charlotte and I instantly fell in love. It was like love at first sight, just like my cousin said it would be. The school was amazing. The campus was amazing. What they offered was amazing and I knew that that’s where I was going to go.
That was the school you ended up attending, correct? Did you immediately choose your major or did that come later once you started attending college? Did you know what you wanted to study?
I knew that I wanted to do healthcare because the high school I went to was a high school based on healthcare. So the high school is named City of Medicine Academy in Durham, North Carolina. When I graduated from middle school, it was time to figure out where I needed to go for high school. And my mom didn’t want me to go to public school.
We have different alternative schools in Durham and she was like, “I really want you to be challenged.” I had an option between a school of engineering. I had an option between early college school, which is located at North Carolina Central University. And it’s basically where you can actually take college courses on the campus if I’m not mistaken. And you get to graduate with like two years of college credits and it’s really beneficial. I actually had a relative that went, so that was an option for me.
I applied to all of them. But, I knew the engineering probably wasn’t going to pique my interest so I didn’t accept that one. I didn’t get accepted into early college. So then it was just between engineering and City of Medicine and I said, “You know what, I think I would like care for people.” So it was kind of which one would I like the most? Now, I knew I wanted to take care of people at that point so I chose City of Medicine and it was great. I got a lot of exposure through them.
All of my teachers or at least 80% of them were retired registered nurses. And the normal courses that you would have such as art, music, or other electives were replaced with healthcare courses that exposed you to terminology. We actually did clinicals. I was able to go to the VA and take care of some of those patients under nurses. They paid for me to get my CNA license to get more exposure. I was able to go to the Vet, the maternity ward, it was a lot of exposures. So at that point that set the tone for me saying I want to be a nurse and that’s how I knew what major I wanted as soon as I went to UNC Charlotte.
Pretty much from the time you enrolled at UNC Charlotte, you selected and moved right into the major. Tell me a little bit about the program at UNC Charlotte. I know that with some schools you start out with core curriculum classes and then later on maybe when you get to be a junior or something like that, that’s when you start working on the courses in your major. Did they have an academic track along those lines or did you start taking nursing classes immediately?
So the way the nursing school at UNC Charlotte works, it consists of four years if done correctly. And if you get in how you’re supposed to, the first two is your prerequisite classes. So your Chems 1 and 2, they’re known as 1203 and 1204, if I’m not mistaken. Your Biology, your Microbiology 1 and 2, your Anatomy and Physiology 1 and 2. And then you have to take your prerequisite math courses. I think, English 1, English 2, and that may be it. They took the foreign language requirement out.
So those classes along with a few other electives put you at a course of two years. And then at that second-year point, you can apply for Upper Div, it’s called “Upper Division”, which is the nursing school within UNC Charlotte. And if you are selected, those nursing courses stretch over your last two years.
It wasn’t a given that you’d be accepted into the nursing program. You had to get through those prerequisite courses and then I’m guessing apply to or at least put yourself forward for consideration for the nursing program. What were the requirements for you to get into the program?
Yes. So first to answer the first part of your questions. It’s not a guarantee. You can do the full two years and still not get in. And that did happen to a lot of people that I knew and they had to either transfer or switch their major because they had so many credits for nursing starting over would put them back a lot.
So the requirements were to finish the two years and to only have, if you have a C, it could only be one C on your transcript. You had to have all A’s and B’s and the GPA requirement was a minimum of a 3.8 just to get in. Even if you had all those requirements, it was still no guarantee.
UNC Charlotte is a very big school, it has a huge campus. When I entered, undergrad and graduate combined, if I’m not mistaken, was about 30,000. It’s a lot of students. So it’s a ton of students applying for the nursing program and I believe they take 50 to 60 [students] a semester. So that it’s cream of the crop that they choose.
Obviously you got into the program. But, considering your overall experience in college, how did you find the transition into college? As you said it was in a larger city and bigger school compared to your experience in high school. Was it a big transition for you?
Yes, Durham is very small. And as you can see, I’m a black female. That is what I’m used to being around, my culture. Being around a lot of African-American people. That’s what I was comfortable [with]. That was my community going to UNC Charlotte is normally known as a PWI or predominantly white institution. It was a, it was a culture shock for me to say the least.
When I arrived at UNC Charlotte, I was enrolled into something called “Learning Community” where it’s optional. They take people based on the group of majors. So you have the college of Health and Human Services, you have your liberal arts, and I want to say you have engineering. But just throwing out some examples. But I was in a College of Health and Human Services because of nursing. Under that umbrella of the College of Health and Human Services, you have nursing, you have public health, you have exercise science, and you have social work.
You don’t have to be in the Learning Community to do these majors. But if you enroll in the Learning Community, you had to take extra courses to help with your transition into college. Which I thought was very helpful because it didn’t baby you but it was like a check-in. Every week you had to go to these classes and these teachers would just give you tools on how to transition.
So when I got into the Learning Community, they not only gave me extra courses for the transition, but they also assigned my roommates based on who was in the community. And I didn’t have a choice of who I had to stay with. So that was the first time that I had ever lived with someone that did not look like me. It was about four females in the room. It was another Black girl, and then it was two other White women. And that was interesting. I had never lived with anybody that wasn’t Black before.
I learned a lot about other cultures. I met so many cultures, that I had never even heard of, things that I never knew. It was very interesting, to say the least. A great experience, I would recommend it for anybody. It was scary because you know, those people don’t look like you. You haven’t been around those people, but it’s necessary. And it definitely prepared me for the real world considering I am a nurse and I meet tons of people. It prepared me. So to say the least, it was a culture shock, but a good one.
Academically, how was the transition coming from high school to college?
So that was rough. I have always been the kid that didn’t have to study. You told me something one time. I pretty much had it. The test was nothing, I could finish it quick, and my study habits were horrible because I didn’t have to study.
So when I got to college I had that same mindset, “Oh, I can sit in class and I’ll be able to do A, B, and C and I’ll pass the class.” My first challenge was chemistry. I did well in chemistry in high school and for some reason chemistry just, it just didn’t work for me. The first test I got a 69 and I was like, “Whoa, I thought I really understood.”
I went and spoke with my professor that same week and I was just explaining to him, I couldn’t understand why I got the 69. And he was like, “Well, did you study?” And I told him, same thing I’m saying now, “I never really had to.” And he was like, “Well, this is college. It’s different. You’re going to have to do that.” So I had to really find out what study methods worked best for me. That was a big challenge for me as far as the transition.
Moving past college into your early career. When you graduated, how was that transition? What was the process for you finding your first job out of college?
So the way it works [with] the nursing school that I went to. I’m assuming it’s like that everywhere, but I’ll just speak for UNC Charlotte. They kind of help you with finding a job. They show you the process, they try to get you connected to the hospitals in Charlotte or in the surrounding areas. Because it’s easier most people will not leave where they are graduating from. So once that process started, I allowed them to help me apply for the places that they recommended.
But I also branched out. My goal was to go to Texas. I didn’t care where in Texas, as long as it was Houston, Dallas or Austin. I was very intrigued and infatuated with Texas at this point and I still kind of am.
Any particular reason?
I just really liked the state and I had never really been. But the things that I read up on or just throughout the years, they pay really well for nurses. The hospitals that I applied to [were] very renowned. It just looked like a good start. And I also had a girlfriend that graduated like a semester or year before me and she moved there. And she just confirmed my suspicions and she loved it and she was like, “I don’t ever want to come back.” I was like, “Yeah, I really want to go to Texas.”
I applied to three different hospitals one in Houston, one in Dallas, one in Austin. I had an interview, actually flew down for one of them. The other two were Skype interviews. I didn’t get any of them. I mean, literally not even a possibility of being in round two. It was literally like, no, you’re rejected. That hurt a little bit because I felt like I’m a good candidate. I don’t understand why they didn’t hire me.
The week that I found out about the third Texas job that I didn’t receive, which was the one I wanted the most. I went to class and it may have been I want to say March…it had to have been March of 2017. And I said, okay, I already had a job in Charlotte, North Carolina. But I knew I didn’t want to be in North Carolina. But I said I’m gonna go ahead and take this job since I can’t get to Texas. And then after I work a year or two, I’ll just move to Texas. I should be able to get a job at that point.
The same week that I got the rejection, my teacher actually had a recruiter come in from Northside Hospital to tell us about the hospital. And, I’m like, hmm, I never thought of Atlanta. I never really wanted to go to Georgia. It just wasn’t something on my mind and it was like, well, what have I got to lose. So after she talked about how great the hospital was and they’re taking new nurses all the time, I expressed interest to her. She took my information. That was a Monday.
Wednesday I received a call from another recruiter trying to schedule the interview. And I told them, I was really busy and that I would need it in like a couple of weeks. And they were saying, well, we need you here by Friday. That was like two days later. So I made arrangements. I drove down to Atlanta that same week, that Friday. Did the interview and got the job that same day, Friday. It was a quick turnaround. Literally five days.
I thought I was going to be staying in North Carolina and then I found out I’m moving to Atlanta. So, that was how I got my first job. Everything fell into place. I was able to get reimbursement to move. I had a family member that allowed me to transition down here and to stay with them until I got on my feet. Everything fell into place. It was like I was meant to be in Atlanta and I still don’t know why, but everything worked out perfectly.
You moved from Durham to Charlotte for school and then from Charlotte to Atlanta for work after college. So gradually moving from a relatively small city to a larger city and then to an even larger city. How was that transition?
I love Atlanta. I tell people all the time, Charlotte is a mini Atlanta. So the transition and the adjustment wasn’t too bad. It was actually pretty normal. Everything that happens in Atlanta pretty much happens in Charlotte but on a smaller scale. The only thing that I will say annoys me the most here is the traffic. And I’m pretty sure everybody will say that. Other than that, that transition was great.
Like I said, I had an aunt here, so that helped because it was a familiar face. My best friend actually received a job here too, like a couple of months after I did, just surprisingly. So she was living 10 minutes from me and then I have some sorority sisters that were here as well. It wasn’t like I was dropped off in the middle of nowhere with no one. It actually felt like a second home once I got adjusted.
You mentioned, you have sorority sisters so obviously you were part of a sorority. How was that experience for you during college?
It was a good experience. I will tell anyone, it definitely shaped me into the woman I am today. Working with other women is a challenge, especially when you’re working with other women with dominating personalities. But it helps build character, helps makes you more assertive so that when you’re in a room or in any type of meeting, you know your place. And that is what my sorority taught me.
They taught me how to be assertive, they taught me how to be sure, how to be thorough. They taught me how to work in different situations. It definitely added the characteristic of adaptability and flexibility within me. I feel like no matter what group I’m in, whether it’s my job, whether I’m out and about and I’m thrown into something, whether it’s my group of friends. I know how to work with a group. It definitely showed me and it prepared me [for] how to work with the people for sure cause I had to work with a ton of people.
You mentioned that you were recruited by Northside and that’s the hospital you ended up moving to Atlanta to work for. What exactly was your first job out of college and what was the orientation process like for you?
I received my first job at Northside Hospital and I received the job in Charlotte, North Carolina. That was the first one I received, but I actually went forth with Northside as my final choice. I entered their nurse residency program. I’m a nurse, the residency is where they take new nurses and they put them through an extended orientation. I had to take classes that were like an extension of nursing school on top of me working, which was very helpful. Because they didn’t just give me a two-week training and throw me on the floor.
It really was a 12-week process of the classes. And then they have certain checkpoints, like a three-month checkup, a six-month checkup, a nine-month checkup. That way they helped me build up my confidence as a nurse. It wasn’t like just get a job and go. I entered the nurse residency program and the transition was pretty good. I don’t think I could have…I’m pretty sure I could have, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do a job without a residency. I recommend that to any new nurse. A residency is, it should be a priority and mandatory in my opinion if it’s not already.
You spoke about the experience of moving from North Carolina down to Atlanta. But take into consideration your experience during college, the classes you took, and then actually working in a hospital. How was the transition from school to the working world? Both from the perspective of going from being a student to being a professional. And then also the experience of actually working within a hospital and moving beyond theory and learning to actually taking care of patients. How was that transition for you and did you feel prepared for it by your college experience?
Nursing school is hard. Nursing school provides you with the foundation and the exposure to healthcare. But it is nothing compared to getting in the field. In the field is where you learn the real stuff. It’s kind of like reading directions before you put together a piece of furniture. But you really don’t understand what you’re putting together until you actually start physically doing it.
I will say nursing school was needed but it did not, it did not prepare me for what I was going to go through fully. It was just an exposure. It’s needed, but it was just an exposure that was about it.
Once I got on the floor, I learned things that I never thought I would learn and that’s a little bit of everything. You really don’t know what something consists of until you are in it. And for nursing school, you’re just in the class, you’re doing the simulations, they show you the videos and when all the patients are allowing you to do everything. It doesn’t really show you the real worldview. Unless you’re in that environment every day.
Is there anything you know now or you learned during let’s say your first year out of nursing school that you wish you’d known when you first graduated? Having had a little bit of experience on the floor, actually working in a hospital, is there anything that you might’ve found useful as a nurse fresh out of school and entering the nursing world?
I wish that we would’ve had more clinical experience because we had to do a lot of hours. But nursing is physically and emotionally and mentally demanding. It definitely has to be a passion in order for it to be fulfilling. I did not realize how much it could drain you. And I had a hard time between having my personal life and my work life.
I became so engrossed in work and all I could do was think about work because I wanted to get it right. It was so hard that I wasn’t doing things to relax myself or to rejuvenate myself. In the beginning, I was very stressed because nursing was very hard. I wasn’t relaxed. I wasn’t doing things on my off days to relax me or to help with my mental and that really messed with me.
When I was in the residency, in the classes that we took, I did speak about that. One of the instructors, her exact words were, “You have to have a life outside of nursing. You cannot just do work and think about work. It’ll drive you crazy.” And once I took her advice, I’ve been pretty much okay ever since. I wish somebody would’ve told me that in nursing school. But I’m looking at this like somebody caught it early on and it didn’t affect me to the point where I let the career go.
What is your current profession? What are you doing now?
Currently I’m still a registered nurse. I am working in the ER with the pediatric population. So I’m very excited about that. I just started that maybe about a month ago. It is very new for me. I feel like a new nurse all over again. It’s different. Different field, different flow, different culture. But it definitely has reignited that nurse feeling within me.
Previously you were working with adults, now you’re working with kids. Have you, I guess do you find that there’s a difference between the two? Either like you mentioned, needing to sort of take time to rejuvenate and disconnect from work to be able to actually do your work. Have you had to make any other adjustments now working with children versus working with adults? Or are there any other considerations that you’ve had to take into account working with a different population of patients?
It’s like starting over. I feel like a new nurse all over again. You know, kids have different things you have to look out for. Things that you will see in adults you may not see in children. How you operate, how you approach them is different. However, it doesn’t make me feel like a new nurse. I don’t feel like I’m a new nurse at the same time because I have that exposure to how to work with people since I have worked with adults. It’s a little bit easier. But the only thing is really learning what they need and getting that process down and using my critical thinking skills for children and not adults. So that is the shift that is taking place now.
But I still pretty much maintain having that self-care aspect outside of work. Even though I will say that’s a difference between me now and me as a new nurse, I did not take self-care seriously. [But now] I take self-care very seriously. Even though it is a challenge doing this…trying out this new population and trying to learn. I know that taking care of myself on my off days or when I get off work is very important in order for me to continue to learn effectively each time I go back.
Just out of curiosity, I’m going a little bit deeper with the difference between the two. Obviously with adults, well most of those they have the ability to express and explain to you, “well this hurts” or “blah blah, blah, doesn’t feel well” and tell you about what’s going on. Whereas with kids, I mean obviously some of them might be able to do so, but I’m guessing some of these kids might be pretty young as well. And I guess the flip side of that is that you might also have the parent or some other caretaker involved that might be able to explain some of that. Do you find that to be an additional layer of difficulty or not so much? Are there other compensations that sort of help to even them out?
It’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I really thought that the parents were going to be pretty challenging. However, if anybody works with adults, they know that those families can be a little more challenging. Working with an adult, you may have family that is very worried so it comes off as overwhelming. You’re not only taking care of the patient but taking care of their family. The transition hasn’t been too bad in that area. It’s what I expected.
The parents actually are pretty trusting and in a lot of situations, they really want their child to get better, whatever that child is. Therefore, they’re very willing to cooperate. You may have a parent here and there who isn’t so friendly. But at the same time, I understand that parent not being as pleasant. Because I don’t have children but I can imagine when something’s wrong with your child and you don’t know what’s going on. You want to know. I can understand them being tense versus an adult that can speak to promote themselves and their families speaking for them sometimes.
The transition was actually pretty good. I don’t think that the parents are really too bad for me. It’s actually pretty decent. They’re very helpful, especially when the child is upset or they’re crying. It’s always very helpful when you ask mom or dad or grandma or whoever’s there, “Can you come hold their hand.”
Switching gears you spoke about some of the difficulties that you faced in college, adjusting to the academic expectations. And then once you graduated, having to learn the importance of self-care for yourself to be able to effectively do your job. But have you experienced any other professional setbacks or hardships either while training or in your career that have either taught you additional skills along the way? Obviously that you feel comfortable sharing?
Let me think. I didn’t really have any, too many setbacks. I feel like I’m my own worst critic. I’m very hard on myself. So when I learned the aspect of self-care and being more kind and trusting my process, I was better with that.
I’ve always been pretty confident working with people. The only thing I will say when it comes to working with people, coworkers, I haven’t really had an issue. But sometimes it’s a tad bit of a challenge working with individuals that aren’t so friendly. I haven’t really had that as a challenge more so just seeing that with other coworkers. But other than that, I haven’t really, I can’t really say I struggle with anything other than me trying to just perfect my nursing skills every day.
Philosophies + Goals
Considering the experiences that you’ve had and the future that you envision for yourself, how would you define success?
I think success is whatever makes that individual feel fulfilled. When you set out goals for yourself, even if those goals only aligned with you and nobody agrees. But if that is a goal for you and you achieve it, that’s success. When you are continually evolving and you are not stagnant. In all aspects, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, career-wise, knowledge wise, anytime you are constantly growing in a positive way that is adding to you as a human being. I consider that success.
And taking that into consideration. Looking at your career and where you are currently. Coming from, let’s say your hopes and aspirations when you were in high school or even in college and looking at where you are now. Would you consider where you are currently to have fallen short of, matched, or surpassed your aspirations and expectations for your career?
I would say it has matched my expectations because there is so much more I want to do. That doesn’t go to say that I’m not proud of myself. I’m very proud of myself. I could not have told you that I would be here in this place in life five years ago. I don’t even think that I actually had the vision. I knew that I wanted to do something, but I never imagined it would be me moving away from home and doing as well as I have done. I would say matched. I’m very proud of myself, but I want to push myself because there’s so much more that I want to do.
Looking to the future, the near future and then also more long-term. What goals or plans are you currently pursuing? Or what do you hope to achieve in the future to come?
My next goal that I am looking into is travel nursing. I really developed a keen interest in travel nursing. At first, even when I was in nursing school, people would mention it to me and I’ll be like, “Oh, I could never do that and I can never be away from my family.”
And now as time has evolved and I’ve evolved, I could literally pack my bags up today and move if I could. So that’s my next goal. That’s something that I want to do, I want to experience the world. I want to see what healthcare is like all over the country. Possibly, maybe other countries. I know doing that will help increase my nursing skills. I’m very excited about that.
Is Texas still one of those places in your list?
It is in my top 10. Yes. It’s probably one of the first between the top three places that I want to visit first. It would be first, second or third. Definitely.
Quick experiment. Let’s say for like your top five places if you could choose where you could go to work. What would be like your five places that you would consider? That would be at the top of your list? I would say Texas.
Particularly where in Texas? Let’s say cities rather than states, whether in America or abroad?
Houston, Dallas, or Austin for Texas. I think those places are awesome. I’d be able to explore the city, have fun, and work. That would be number one.
Number two would either be Durham, where I’m from. So Durham, NC; Charlotte, NC; Cary, NC; or Chapel Hill, NC. I think those would be great places. It would give me the opportunity to spend some time with my family, which I don’t get much. I don’t have much time to do at this point and work at the same time.
Number three would be Hawaii. I’m just going to say Honolulu. I don’t know how many cities are there. I mean, I know it’s a lot of cities. I can’t really tell you all of them. I know Honolulu was like a main one, so I’m gonna say Honolulu. But I really would love to go to Hawaii.
Have you visited before?
I have not. I think I spoke with a patient about travel nursing and she just reignited that flame. She was just telling me all the great things I could do and how she had friends that travel, the travel nursing in Hawaii because she was from there and she said I would love it. That is a place I would love to go.
Number four, I would say Los Angeles or San Diego, California. I think that will be fun. And then, I would say Las Vegas will be my fifth one. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to Las Vegas? So you can actually do travel nursing in Las Vegas. I can have fun while I’m there and work.
So pretty much a warm place where there’s no real cold, it sounds like.
I really want to do New York, it’s just not in my top five. It would probably be number six. So the main places in New York like Brooklyn or Queens or Manhattan those main areas. The ones that I’ve only been to, I’ll be interested in it. If they wanted me to go to like a Long Island or something. I’d be interested in that but I definitely would be interested in New York as like maybe my number six.
Standing where you are now and looking back to your younger self, what career or life advice would you offer to your younger self? For any young person that’s still in school or just getting ready to enter the workforce? It could be specifically about nursing or just work in general or life in general.
If I had to talk to my younger self or talk to any younger person. I would say do not let society force you into an occupation that you don’t want to do. Do not pick an occupation or career based on money because you won’t be happy. I am a firm believer that if you would do it for free, it is the occupation for you. Because your job is like your second family so if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not gonna fulfill you.
I will also tell them to trust the process you are. It’s maybe 1% of people, young people that are going to get the job that they want, the exact job that they want. You have to trust the process. You may not get the job you want. You may get the job you want, but not the salary you want. And you have to work your way up. But you just remember you have to work. It’s not gonna come easy. It’s not going to come overnight, but you will get where you want to go if you put in the work. So trust the process and be kind to yourself and be honest about what you can and what you can do.
And I would also say do not disregard opportunities because they sound too far fetched. Just like travel nursing in high school or in the beginning of college sounds so far fetched to me and I disregarded the opportunity. Luckily for me, it didn’t harm me, disregarding it, because now I’ve had the opportunity where I can still do it.
One of the things I will say that I don’t regret but I wish I would’ve done is study abroad. That’s what I mean by don’t disregard an opportunity because you feel like it’s too far fetched. At least look into it. At least get the information. Even if you don’t go through with it, just become educated on what you can do with this opportunity. Because exposing yourself to experiences is the best thing that you can do because you’re going to learn and nobody can take knowledge from you.
Imagine it’s years from now and you’re nearing or already retired. When you look back over your career, what accomplishments or achievements would make you consider it a roaring success versus mediocre or even disappointing?
For the older version of myself in the future, looking back on me now or future selves to see how my career has evolved. I want to be considered a seasoned nurse. And seasoned nurses are those nurses that have been in nursing or years. You ask them a question, they know the answer without thinking. What you can’t do, they can do in the blink of an eye. And I admire those nurses. When I work somewhere, those are the ones that I really try to befriend because I want to learn and they are willing to teach you. I want to look back and be able to say, my nursing skill was perfected. I was a seasoned nurse.
I want to look back and know that I did more than just bedside nursing. I want to really help people. I mean I help people every day, but I want to use my nursing platform and really make a difference. Maybe start a foundation or start a program that could reach out to underprivileged populations and things like that. I want to be able to look back and see, not only did I really perfect my [skills]. But I used my skill not just for what it’s used for, but to branch out and do as much as I could to make a difference.
Think about people or events, famous or only known to you that have motivated, inspired, or influenced you as a person or your career. Does anyone or anything, in particular, come to mind? It can be like a well-known person or just someone that you personally know.
Anybody that knows me knows that I am obsessed with, I think her last name is Doughty, Monique Doughty if I’m not mistaken. I hate to put her whole name out there, but she’s on Instagram. Her name is @iamnursemo. I love nurse Mo. I started following her in college and she is the nurse that I want to be. She is a Black nurse. She’s a traveling nurse. She is just very positive, very energetic.
I actually just went to one of her workshops maybe two or three weeks ago and I just, she reignited my passion for nursing. I mean she’s very real. She talks about her struggles and how she thought nursing wasn’t for her and how she realized she could use nursing to really make her happy. And that is, she’s literally my role model in the nursing field. I would just love to just talk with her one-on-one at some point. But she is amazing. She is the person that I like to look to or I think about her and I’m like, “I could do more because Nurse Mo would do more.”
And then non-clinical wise, I would say somebody that pushes me in that “I won’t quit because I think of this person” is my mom. My mom and my grandma. They have worked so hard to raise me. My mom was a single parent and my grandma stepped into the places where she couldn’t. But my mom and my grandma were phenomenal and amazing. I am literally obsessed with my grandma and my mom. They are very strong women. If I could be a fourth of what they are as mothers, as sisters to my future children and my future family, I know that my family is going to turn out okay.
They are just are blessings in disguise. I don’t know how I became so lucky to be assigned to them in this lifetime. But everything I do, I just remember that it would make them proud. They’ve put in so much work to get me where I am. There were so many conversations on nights where I was crying or I felt like I couldn’t continue or when I was upset or when I didn’t understand and they were there every step of the way. They never faltered. Everything that I do, I do for them because this is like paying them back for all those years of hard hardships and sacrifice. I’m giving them their flowers while they’re living by being successful.
Keeping along the same track. Are there any specific books that you’ve read whether recently or in the past that have influenced or inspired you either as a person or with regards to how you approach work or your work philosophy?
I read a lot. It’s actually a book that I purchased from a nursing workshop. This book is called Shift: From Burnout to Boss. It is by Arlie Hatcher and its other coauthors. And I actually met all of these authors at a nursing workshop. They were all Black registered nurses from all different areas and they actually are now entrepreneurs. If they do work at the bedside it’s only because they want to. But from my understanding they don’t, they all have their own businesses.
That book has really changed my perspective on nursing. It showed me how I could use nursing as my platform and make it work for me. These women in this book are very successful. They talked about endeavors and business adventures that I didn’t even know you could do with nursing. That really has shifted my mindset and helped me realize that I should not be complacent and that I can do more with my nurse and platform.
Any other books that come to mind?
That is about it as far as a motivation that I’ve read, everything else was pretty fiction.
Thank you for joining me in this interview. It was a great experience to speak with you and get some further insight into your professional background and your journey.
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