Overcoming Obstacles

From The Floor

Overcoming Obstacles

Helping others to succeed in their dream of becoming a nurse

By Genevieve M. Clavreul, RN, Ph.D.
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Like so many nurses of my generation, I put myself through nursing school by working. Back then scholarships and grants were few and far between, so I counted myself lucky to have a job as a waitress at the Officers’ Club at our nearby military base. After the officers  learned that I was working my way through nursing school, they were extra generous with my tips, which they referred to as “the college fund.”  

After I got my Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) license, I took a full-time position at our local hospital and used my salary to pay the tuition to finally earn my registered nursing (RN) license. I was fortunate that my strategy allowed me to graduate from nursing school without borrowing money or dipping into the family budget.

Today’s nursing student is much more likely to incur debt. Between the escalating cost of education and the fight for limited seats in required classes, the time from entrance into nursing school to graduation may increase by several years. These challenges, on top of other personal and economic stressors, cause many to give up on their dream of becoming a nurse.

It Takes a Village

All too often, a person who would make a perfectly good and competent nurse stumbles and fails for lack of support, financial and otherwise. Nursing students don’t all have the same advantages. Some enter the program with the self-esteem and wherewithal to self-direct, some do so through sheer tenacity, and others benefit from the support and mentorship of others.   

There are many organizations that assist aspiring nurses, and The Los Angeles County Commission for Women is one such group.  These dedicated volunteers have a track record of successfully reaching out and mentoring at-risk young women to pursue the nursing profession.

I’ve been an active community member of the Commission for Women’s Healthcare Committee for many years now. It was through this involvement that I learned about their scholarship fund. This year, close to a dozen young women have benefited as recipients of this scholarship fund. I had the chance to meet with them one Saturday at the Los Angeles County School of Nursing, located next to L.A. County+USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles.

The Mentoring Session

The group had gathered to learn about the various exams that they would have to take and pass to become a nurse. These include the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) in order to enter nursing school, and the NCLEX-RN exam after graduation to qualify for their RN license.

This meeting was made possible thanks to the school’s Dean of Administrative and Student Services, Dean Maria Caballero, RN, BSN, who provided a room, equipment and other such necessities. These young women’s commitment to their education and their dreams of becoming nurses inspired me to share two of their stories in this month’s column.

Kim Franklin, Nursing StudentKim Franklin

Kimberly Franklin is 26 years old and lives in Sherman Oaks where she shares an apartment with a roommate. She learned of the Commission’s scholarship from her foster care system independent living coordinator Michael Pearson.  

Kim, who already has a B.S. degree in healthcare administration, is deciding between pursuing an accelerated BSN program or an entry-level Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). She’s the first in her family to attend college and has encouraged her siblings to do so as well. She credits her younger sister and best friend Tina for keeping her focused and supporting her goal of becoming a nurse.

Her journey hasn’t been an easy one. She works full-time while attending Los Angeles City College part-time, and balancing her task of shadowing nurses as required by her school’s nursing curriculum.  It’s her aspiration to become a medical/surgical (med/surg) nurse upon graduation with her sights set on working in a community hospital. She shadowed a med/surg nurse during one of her assignments, and it was this nurse’s compassion and dedication to her patients that inspired Kim.

When asked what advice she would give her younger self, her response was: do not let any obstacle discourage you and no matter what happens, stay focused and persevere. Sounds like a young woman who has the makings of the kind of nurse we all want on our team.

Haydee Morales, Nursing StudentHaydee Morales

Haydee Morales is a 22-year-old single mother living in South Los Angeles. She commutes 20 miles each way to Mount Saint Mary’s College where she’s a junior in their nursing program. She lives at home with her mother and six-year-old son who she had when she was a sophomore in high school.    

Becoming a mother at the tender age of 15 did little to slow this young woman’s ambition. She graduated with her class on time and became the first in her family to enter college. While in high school she became involved in programs such as Upward Board and the Youth Employment Development Internship program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. It was the hospital experience that helped fuel her interest in becoming a nurse.

It was the birth of her son and his subsequent diagnosis of jaundice that helped Haydee find an interest in specializing as a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse. Nurse Shelly — Haydee remembers her name as if it were only yesterday — was the nurse assigned to her newborn son. She recalls Nurse Shelly’s professionalism and attention to every question and concern this young mother had about her infant. When Nurse Shelly lifted the blanket from her son’s isolette, Haydee fell in love with the idea of being a nurse.

Haydee learned about the Commission for Women and the nursing scholarship through her social worker at El Nido Family Center, a nonprofit organization in Pacoima that supports teen parents. Haydee makes it clear that support from various people and organizations have helped her keep her eye on her goal.

I asked Haydee what her six-year old son thinks about her going to school to become a nurse. She says that he loves to show her off to his classmates and friends telling them that his mommy is going to be a nurse, especially when she’s in her white uniform.

Bridging the Gap

These young women are but two of the many who had been helped by the Commission for Women both through the hands-on involvement of its members and the scholarship fund that they have maintained year in and year out. Many times, former foster children, teen mothers, and other at-risk young people don’t have the institutional knowledge of how to access traditional funding sources for which they may already qualify. This is where grants and scholarships such as those offered by the Commission for Women can help bridge that gap. Often those who receive this support come from the African-American, Asian and Hispanic communities, which are poorly represented in nursing today. As such, these candidates help diversify our profession and allow us to better serve our patients.

The next time an organization is raising funds or asking for volunteers to help mentor young people who have an interest in nursing, please answer the call. If you get a mailer from your local nursing association asking for a small donation to their local scholarship fund, consider skipping that latte and treat for a day or two, and instead donate to the fund.

At present it’s very fashionable for us to request that our friends and families donate to a favorite charity in lieu of gifts at a birthday party. If this is something you do, perhaps this year your favorite charity could be a local nursing scholarship.

We all need to invest in young people like Kim and Haydee if we want to have a positive impact on the future of the nursing profession.  

Geneviève M. Clavreul RN, Ph.D., is a healthcare management consultant who has experience as a DON and as a lecturer on hospital and nursing management. She can be reached at: gmc@solutionsoutsidethebox.net.



Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently announced $71.3 million in grants to expand nursing  education. For a complete list of grants, please click here.

Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention ($10.9 million - 33 awards) Strengthens nursing education and practice capacity by supporting initiatives that expand the nursing pipeline, promote career mobility for nurses, prepare more nurses at the baccalaureate level, and provide continuing education training to enhance the quality of patient care. The Affordable Care Act modified the program to enhance its focus on activities that help improve nurse retention.
Nursing Workforce Diversity ($3.6 million - 11 awards) Increases nursing education opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, including racial and ethnic minorities underrepresented among registered nurses. Grants support educational opportunities for students to become registered nurses and opportunities for practicing registered nurses to pursue a baccalaureate degree in nursing. The Affordable Care Act amended the program to include support for advanced nursing education preparation, diploma and associate degree nurses entering bridge or degree completion programs and accelerated nursing degree program students. 
Nurse Faculty Loan Program ($23.4 million - 109 awards) Assists registered nurses in completing their graduate education to become qualified nurse faculty. Through grants to eligible entities, offers partial loan forgiveness for borrowers that graduate and serve as full-time nursing faculty for the prescribed period of time. The Affordable Care Act increased the annual loan limit to $35,500 from $30,000 and established a priority for doctoral nursing students.
Advanced Nursing Education Program ($16.1 million - 55 awards) Supports advanced nursing education specialty programs that educate registered nurses to become nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, nurse educators, nurse researchers/scientists, public health nurses and other advanced nurse specialists.   
Advanced Education Nursing Traineeships ($16 million - 349 awards) Funds traineeships at eligible institutions for registered nurses enrolled in advanced education nursing programs. Traineeships prepare nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse administrators, nurse educators, public health nurses and nurses in other specialties requiring advanced education. The Affordable Care Act removed the 10 percent cap in this program that limited the amount of support that could go to nursing students pursuing doctoral degrees. 
Nurse Anesthetist Traineeships ($1.3 million - 76 awards) Supports traineeships at eligible institutions for licensed registered nurses enrolled as full-time students in their second year of a two-year nurse anesthetist master's program. 

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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