I was born in Guyana, South America, in 1952. As a child I dreamt of being a nurse and caring for the sick. But faced with numerous obstacles, including financial difficulties and lack of opportunity, I was forced to postpone that dream for many years.
Today I am a successful nurse who recently earned her master’s degree in nursing at the age of 50. Reflecting on my past, I am so happy that I made the decision to change my career and pursue a nursing education, which allowed me to finally fulfill the dreams I had so long ago. My words of advice to other people of color who may encounter obstacles to following their dreams are, “Don’t give up.”
After graduating from high school in Guyana, I applied to a nursing school but I was not accepted. So I gave up on my dream of becoming a nurse and pursued other career paths. I joined the military, where I worked in communications as a switchboard operator for many years. After that, I held various civilian jobs, such as working at a glass factory.
In 1987, at age 35, I immigrated to the United States with my family. I worked in the insurance industry as a file clerk, but subsequently resigned because there was no opportunity for professional growth or development. I started a new career in banking and requested numerous transfers for financial and professional growth. As a new immigrant my motto was to “get rich quick,” so I was encouraged by my peers to seek a second, part-time job to earn additional money. I had never worked two jobs in Guyana, but I was willing to do anything honest to survive in America.
I opted for a housekeeper position at a long-term care facility, where I worked every other weekend, leaving my family and my church activity. Because this position paid more money than my file clerk job at the bank, I decided to resign from banking and work full time as a housekeeper. My family was very upset with the decision I had made to leave the prestigious banking profession for a housekeeper position, and there were many embarrassing questions I had to answer. Honestly, I was looking for a better-paying job in order to survive.
While working at the long-term care facility, I was surprised by the number of elderly people living there and their inability to care for themselves. I felt deep empathy for them, and whenever they would call upon me to tie their shoelaces or hand them a glass of water to drink, I willingly dropped my broom and gave them the assistance they needed.
One day I was reprimanded for assisting one of the residents. I was told that this was not in my job description and that only nursing personnel were allowed to help the residents. This statement caught me by surprise. I asked why I could not help them, because in my culture I was taught to be respectful to the elderly. The response was: “That’s the policy. If you’re not a nurse’s assistant, you can’t have patient contact.”
The Turning Point
That incident reawakened my desire to become a nurse and gave me the impetus to try again to follow my dream. I retained my position as a housekeeper at this facility because of the tuition reimbursement I was able to receive through my union’s 1199 Training and Upgrading Fund. I registered for a nursing assistant course at Capital Community College in Hartford.
After successfully completing this course, I gladly accepted a nursing assistant position at the Hebrew Home and Hospital, a long-term care facility in West Hartford. This opportunity increased my passion to become a nurse. During the time I was employed as a housekeeper and then a nursing assistant, I attended Capital Community College and graduated in 1995 with an associate’s degree in nursing. I remained employed at the Hebrew Home and Hospital in the capacity of a charge nurse.
Since then, I have worked in various long-term care facilities, sharing the joy of caring for the elderly population. I have taken an extra step along the path of professional success and obtained my certification as a gerontological nurse from the American Nurses Credentialing Center in 1998. Wanting to do still more with my career, I attended the University of Hartford and obtained my BSN degree in 1999.
On May 18th, 2003, I graduated from the University of Hartford with a master’s degree in nursing. My daughter and her two children came all the way from Japan to attend my graduation ceremony. My childhood dream has truly become a reality.
I am thankful to my supportive husband who stood by me throughout the years. I also thank my two children for their patience, as well as my sisters, sisters-in-law, brothers, brothers-in- law and friends who nurtured me all the way. Most of all, I want to thank my nursing instructors who gave me all their support and put their faith in my becoming a nurse.
It was not an easy journey to achieve my lifelong dream. But my experience proves that if you follow your dreams and never give up, you will be rewarded with the career of your choice. I have not regretted for a moment the choices I have made, and as a result I continue to have a fascinating, enriching and exciting life as a nurse.