Succeeding in Nursing with a Little Help from My Son

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Zandra, RN, and her son, Alexander

“We traveled this journey together,” Zandra, RN, begins.

When Zandra was 17 years old, she gave birth to her son, Alexander. Since his very first breath, Alexander has given his mom, Zandra, the resolve to follow her heart and tackle her biggest dreams.

Zandra graduated from high school a few months after Alexander’s birth. While she was learning how to be a new mom, Zandra made the courageous decision to go to college.

“I thought to myself: If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right,” Zandra remembers. Zandra wanted the best for her and her son.

A New Tradition of Education

With support and encouragement, Zandra became the first person in her family to graduate from college. In December 2013, Zandra received her Associate’s degree in Nursing from Joliet Junior College (JJC) .

“My parents grew up in poverty.” Zandra continues, “They didn’t even graduate from high school.”

Between studying for finals, cooking for her family, and taking care of her toddler, Zandra found a way to push through and graduate on time.

After graduation, Zandra decided to postpone looking for her first nursing job. Instead, Zandra started working on her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing.

“My goal was always my Bachelor’s degree,” Zandra explains.

First Year as a New Graduate Nurse

Six months later, Zandra accepted a Nurse Resident position within Independence Plus’ Home Nursing Residency program.

“I wanted to be selective with my first job,” Zandra explains.

The Residency program offered Zandra everything she was looking for—education, training, mentorship, and her first year of nursing experience.

Zandra thought to herself, “This is as good as it gets. I have to do it!”

Over the next year, Zandra worked hard to be the best nurse she could be. Working with complex, ventilator-dependent children and adults, Zandra was able to provide excellent care and help her patients and their families lead more fulfilling lives—at home and in the world outside.

“I love being part of my patient’s everyday lives,” Zandra begins.

Zandra remembers the very first time she took one of her non-verbal patients to school. Zandra had recently transitioned to daytime shifts and her patient was working with a therapist to activate a button using her hands. The therapist wanted to engage Zandra in the exercise, so the therapist said to her patient, ‘Zandra’s turn.’

“My patient looked right at me as if to say, ‘go ahead.’ It sent chills up my spine,” Zandra explains. “My patient knew exactly who I was the whole time.”

It’s moments like this one that keep Zandra focused on becoming the strongest and most educated nurse she can be.

What’s Next?

With the support of Zandra’s family and friends, she has accomplished a great deal in her son’s first five years of life.

When Zandra felt like she had to give up completing her education, she forced herself to stay positive. Since her first year of nursing school, she often reads this quote: Don’t worry about how long it takes to achieve your goals. Time will pass anyway. This quote has always motivated Zandra to continue onward, despite the many challenges she faced.

Zandra is scheduled to graduate with her BSN next month, and she couldn’t be more excited.

“Everyone keeps asking me if I’m going to grad school, but I think I’m going to wait until my son is older.”

Zandra is most proud of her son, Alexander, and how far they’ve come together. For now, she wants to focus on doing well for our patients and always spending quality time with her son.


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