When Ashley Smith started the full-time Practical Nursing Program in January 2021, she was the mother of three kids, ages 1, 14, and 17. She was excited to continue her education to provide a better life for her family, and show her older kids the value of Higher Ed. One month into the program, her boyfriend, aged 31, had a heart attack in front of her. Juggling her family and her boyfriend’s recovery forced her to put her education on the back burner. With so much happening, she didn’t think to ask for a leave of absence. Without this step, the clinical hours she missed meant she couldn’t receive credit for her month of schooling. True to her character, Ashley didn’t give up.
A New Start
Once her boyfriend recovered, Ashley returned to the LCCTC part-time Practical Nursing program to start over again. The part-time program holds classes in the evenings over 19 months, allowing students to work during the day. Ashley felt renewed and ready to put her education first. On the day of her first big test, she also took another test and found out she was pregnant. Instead of using this news as an opportunity to pause, Ashley was more prepared and motivated to finish and start a career that could benefit her family.
Clinical hours are critical to students’ success in the LPN program, and Ashley planned ahead for the birth. She saved up her time so that she would have a few days off and ended up giving birth to her daughter on Tuesday, March 22, and was back to school that Thursday. For many, this timeline would seem inconceivable, but Ashley was determined to finish.
Following the birth of her daughter, Ashley started experiencing troubling symptoms. She had high blood pressure, dizziness, and at one point experienced vision loss in one of her eyes. After three months of her symptoms intensifying (all the while she was diligently keeping up with her work and school) she ended up in the hospital. The symptoms were related to eclampsia, and her condition was dangerous. She was required to be on a magnesium drip. One of her nurses tried to convince her to drop out of school to focus on her health, warning Ashley she could die. Ashley’s response was “yea but I also could live. If I live it will all be worth it”. Ashley was literally dead-set on reaching her goal of graduating and provide a better life for her family.
After Ashley was released, her mother-in-law came to live with her family and assisted them in taking care of the kids, cooking meals, and most importantly, looking after Ashley’s health. “She would make me drink garlic water and take all of my supplements.” Having an extra adult there who could help made all the difference and allowed Ashley to focus solely on her goal. She says “I was all about persevering”.
Reaching the Finish Line
Finally, on January 23, after two chaotic years, Ashley graduated from the LPN Program. She passed her boards on March 1 and is working two jobs. However, she is not quite finished with her education. In January 2024 she plans to go back to school for her RN degree through a bridge program offered by one of her employers. Her driving force remains to be an example for her kids, now 1,2, 16, and 19. We are sure they are, as anyone who hears Ashley’s story cannot help but be impressed and inspired by her tenacity against all the roadblocks she has encountered.
If you or a loved one is interested in furthering your career, or pivoting to the in-demand field of practical nursing, Visit our website to learn more.