Nursing is in my blood. My parents are both nurses. My sister, countless cousins and others in my family have all dedicated themselves to serving others through the noble profession of nursing.
When I graduated high school, I briefly tried to outrun my destiny. I left Los Angeles to enroll at UC Merced, only to find that the call to nursing remained strong. After just two years, I returned home to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse, like my parents before me.
I moved back in with my parents and got a series of part time jobs at a property management firm and worked as a personal assistant as I pursued my dream. I enrolled at various community colleges in hopes of obtaining my ADN degree. It wasn’t easy. The classes were so impacted that it took three years – at four different community colleges – just to complete the prerequisites so I could apply to a local ADN program.
While our clinics and hospitals are woefully understaffed, our public schools simply cannot educate the number of nurses we need to meet rising demand.
In the spring of 2014, I applied for the ADN program at a local community college. I was told to report to campus for an admissions meeting. My heart sank as I walked in to the auditorium that day with hundreds of other students all hoping for one of the handful of available spots in the ADN program. The selection process, we were told, was going to be a lottery. I was among the ¾ of the students in that room who walked away disappointed. After years of hard work, my fate had been decided by pulling numbers out of a hat. I had invested years in building skills to pursue my dream, only to be turned away and told to try again next year.
I kept shopping around, looking for any public or private nursing program I could find. The public programs all had similar stories – the programs were all severely impacted, and acceptance basically came down to a lottery. That’s when I found American Career College (ACC).
After years of fighting for classes at community colleges and waiting for my lucky number to come up, the experience at a private nursing college could not have been more different. After a quick phone call, I sent in an application. Within weeks, I was enrolled in their ADN program and on the road to achieving my dream.
My first choice was to try to obtain my training at a public institution. But like so many other students, I found that the public colleges simply cannot meet the demands for our state’s workforce and the needs of the students. There are many advocates who believe the answer is to make it harder for private alternatives to operate in hopes of attracting more public funding and resources.
While this position is understandable on a philosophical level, it leaves students like me behind. As the fate of private nursing education is determined by politicians and lawyers in Sacramento, students’ risk being left without options. It also hurts patients who will need nurses to fill the shortages in clinics and hospitals around the state in order to receive quality health care.
The debt I carried was comparable to what I would have been at a public school, where fighting for classes and training can drag out for years.
California is facing a nursing shortage. But while our clinics and hospitals are woefully understaffed, our public schools simply cannot educate the number of nurses we need to meet rising demand. Schools like the one I attended offer an option for students like me to earn a nursing degree and immediately find a place in the health care workforce. At my nursing school , more than 90 percent of all nursing graduates find nursing jobs after graduation.
I was able to complete my degree in less than two years. Not only was I able to get into a nursing school and graduate quickly, but the staff was instrumental in getting me placed in a job at an outpatient surgery center shortly after I graduated. Yes, I took out a loan to complete my education, but I have been able to pay that loan back thanks to a good paying job straight out of nursing school. The debt I carried was comparable to what I would have been at a public school, where fighting for classes and training can drag out for years.
Trained nurses are needed not just for an aging and expanding patient population, it offers a career pathway for young people like me who are searching for a way forward. While I am currently working in an outpatient center, I am going back to school to receive a bachelors in nursing. Additional training will open the door to more opportunities and better pay, and hopefully lead to a placement in a local hospital.
Nursing may be in my blood, but I will always be for the opportunity to get in the door. I know there are thousands of young people like me who were turned away from public nursing programs and were forced to find other ways to pursue our dreams.
To meet our changing health care needs, California is going to need thousands more nurses. For those who are lucky enough to have their number called, public nursing programs are a great option to begin a path toward a successful career. But for students like me, private nursing colleges provided a doorway to a successful career, and to realizing a lifelong dream.