My Journey to Become an RN

Guest Post by Jeimary Ramos Malave, RN and LOHF Scholarship Recipient

This month I assisted in my first delivery of a refugee patient’s baby at Women & Babies Hospital. My Spanish-speaking patient arrived in the U.S. just 8 months ago. We connected well as soon as I walked into the room because of our shared language and culture. I was able to help her through labor. She had a beautiful delivery and was so thankful that I was able to help her and her husband.

For 7 years, I had waited for this exact moment—to be able to connect with a patient and provide quality care through the barriers she was faced. I was grateful that I was able to give this family a positive birth experience. I felt empowered that I was able to take care of her to that capacity. I left the room thinking of all of the years it took me to achieve the goal of becoming a registered nurse.

As a nurse, I get to meet strangers and help them welcome their babies into the world during one of their happiest times. I get to assist the young mom who is afraid to give birth and the mom who has dealt with infertility. Some days are filled with joy and other days are filled with grief and sadness. As an RN, I am able to care for others and teach patients about their bodies and how they work.

Detoured and disappointed

I faced many obstacles and detours in my journey to nursing, but I was determined. In 2010, I graduated high school and attended Bloomsburg University. I felt I could conquer the world.  I got a job to help with books and living expenses while trying to excel in rigorous science courses.  After 2 years, I had taken all of my pre-requisites for the nursing program but was denied acceptance. I was also pregnant with my first daughter.

I was faced with a decision: drop out, change majors, or go back home and raise my daughter. I tried to imagine my life choosing another major other than nursing but nothing had an impact on me. I decided to go home. Now, I was a young mom with no college degree barely making ends meet, but I didn’t give up. I transferred my credits to the LPN program at Lancaster County Career and Technology Center. I told myself that if I could excel in this program with a small child, then surely I would be able to continue on to become an RN.

As an LPN, my detour helped others

I passed my boards and started my first job at SouthEast Lancaster Health Services, initially doing prenatal phone nursing. After 6 months, I was offered the position of Women’s Health LPN, responsible for following up with abnormal cervical cancer screenings and making sure that women were attending their follow up appointments. I was also responsible for coordinating a women’s group to teach refugee women over 50 about mammograms and pap smears. Eventually, I became Lead LPN of the Women’s Health Department, using my nursing skills to help train medical assistants and other LPNs in prenatal care. I also helped rewrite policies for the Women’s Health Department and help it department take on the Title 10 fund to help patients to access birth control.

From defeated to determined, thanks to LOHF scholarship

But even after 3 ½ successful and fulfilling years at SELHS, I longed to become an RN. I applied to PA College of Health Sciences after being at SELHS for a year. But I got nervous when an advisor told me that the program was too rigorous for me to handle while parenting a 6-month-old, and that the chances I would be accepted would be slim to none. I withdrew my application, feeling defeated again.

A year later, I still couldn’t shake the desire to finish what I started at Bloomsburg University, so I reapplied to the LPN- RN bridge program. I was offered conditional acceptance!

There were still going to be challenges, especially a financial one. I applied for a scholarship from LOHF, and they awarded me the opportunity to fulfill my dream! The LOHF scholarship was the final push I needed to make my journey to become an RN possible.

In May of this year (2017), I graduated with an Associate degree, a 3.2 GPA, and promotion to the BSN program! I have also moved on from SELHS to become a labor and delivery nurse at LGH/Penn Medicine Women & Babies Hospital.

Nursing is a reward worth the challenge

My advice to others who dream of becoming a nurse, is that you must be passionate about it. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to make that dream a reality, whether it’s retaking a science course to boost your GPA, or waiting another year to start a program.  I was faced with a lot of hurdles in my journey. I had to look at the big picture and make sure the decisions I was making would have a positive impact on my children. And there were many days when I wanted to give up and be complacent with my life.

As nurses, we hold the lives of many people in our hands, and it is the humanness of our patients that bring us to work every single day. We are able to meet our patients where they are in their vulnerability during their happiest and saddest times. We are able to build trust, educate, and empower our patients and leave them better than they were.

If you are on a journey to nursing, think of what nursing means to you and what you can offer the community through it. This kind of impact is why LOHF supports nursing in Lancaster County through scholarships like mine.