nursing student stories

Resilience and Recognizing Those Who Encourage Us in Our Everyday Lives

Resilience and Recognizing Those Who Encourage Us in Our Everyday Lives
by Dr. Vivienne Friday, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE
Program Director, ABSN, Goodwin University

I am the first of my family to attend an institution of higher education, earning a degree in Nursing from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. I worked as a registered nurse in health care, tourism, and educational settings before returning to college to complete my undergraduate studies in social work, with the goal of becoming an academic guidance counselor. I was hopeful that I would make an impactful contribution as a counselor, but I received shattering news that created a roadblock between me and my path to future success. The following relates how I overcame this challenge.

I sat nervously on the edge of a chair, numbness permeating my entire being. Tears welled up in my eyes, producing a haze that eerily mirrored the way I felt inside, before falling onto the letter I clutched in my trembling hand. I was in shock and disbelief. I had been dismissed from the Bachelor of Science Social Work program at the University of the West Indies because I failed to earn the credits required to proceed. The news was devastating. I felt crushed and rejected. I believed I was a total failure, and the letter of dismissal was the confirmation.

Obstacles are just a part of the journey.

Although I had a passion for making a difference, I was ill-prepared for the complications I would encounter pursuing my social work degree. I entered the program with minimal computer skills, which made completing my assignments time-consuming. I had forgotten some of the rudiments of learning, which added to the challenges of mastering my courses. At the University of West Indies, delayed delivery of textbooks, less-than-adequate technology, and lacking faculty communication were additional obstacles to overcome.

I was working full-time, studying, and caring for a family of four. When I allotted time to participate in weekly study groups, my family or work-related activities fell short and were left undone. My efforts to balance work and study proved unsuccessful, again.

By the end of my first semester, I had earned only three credits. Students needed a minimum of six to remain in good academic standing, so I was dismissed from another program. My shock and bewilderment lasted for days. The thought of another lost dream was overwhelming. My self-esteem was crushed, and I began to doubt my ability and potential to achieve.

Believe in those who believe in you.

Thankfully, those feelings were short lived. My spouse — an essential source of encouragement in my life — stepped in to offer support, focusing my attention on some of my past successes. He painted a picture of someone who was a hero, someone talented with countless capabilities. He expressed a belief in me that I had not had in myself. His unwavering reassurance helped to unleash the hero in me.

I didn’t let one rejection alter my goals. Although I had experienced failures, I was not defeated, but determined to continue. One year later, I reapplied and carried on with my courses in the University of West Indies online Social Work program.

Although I still struggled with the technological learning curve and received only marginal grades, I held onto the dream of one day acquiring my bachelor’s degree in social work.

With my husband’s help, I continued to believe in myself. He assured me that I possessed the personal strengths and skills needed to succeed. His support and positive affirmations propelled me forward, filled with the hope of all that could be.

Before completing the social work program in Jamaica, I was one of several hundred registered nurses recruited to address the nursing shortage in America, and I emigrated to the United States.

Unwilling to let location deter me from lifelong learning, I refocused my education on a nursing degree that would transition me from a diploma-prepared nurse to an educationally equipped holder of a bachelor’s degree. One year later, I enrolled in an RN-to-BSN program.

The challenges of balancing work, school, and family remained the same, but now the learning environment was different. As a “later in life” student, I discovered that making the switch to a BSN degree was my motivator for success.

A new adventure had begun. I had left the comfort of my home town, extended family, and secure work environment. Keeping my past challenges in mind, I adapted to my newfound academics and employed a different strategy. I started at a slower pace. I attempted statistics, my most challenging course, first. I frequently met with a study partner and took advantage of all the institution’s available resources.

The number of individuals encouraging me grew beyond my spouse and began to include faculty and peers. Several instructors served as mentors and were available for additional guidance with course selection and simple, but meaningful, tasks, such as navigating the system or the physical environment. They provided useful feedback and access to a network of people who provided valuable support.

Lingering moments of anxiety, doubt, and fear of failure were tempered by the overwhelming care I received from my classmates, teachers, and family. They made me laugh and gave me new perspectives on challenges that kept me grounded and focused on the future while holding me accountable for my actions. They became a support system that provided the emotional and physical strength that contributed to my academic success. I was fortunate to be surrounded by people who loved me, wished me well, and wanted me to succeed.

With positive supporters by my side, I successfully completed my first semester studying in the United States. The results of my efforts were gratifying, and I now had the motivation I needed to push me toward my goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing — and becoming the first in my family to graduate from college. Putting one foot in front of the other, I continued to succeed in the program, semester after semester, holding fast to the vision of one day walking across the stage to receive my diploma.

A great support system can mean your best success.

I made mistakes on my journey to academic success, but failure was never an option. I persevered at a pace that was, at times, overwhelming, but the challenges helped unearth the inner strength I needed to take control of my own life, and my academic destiny — and I am so grateful that I started to believe my support system and stayed resilient.

I completed the program with a 3.97 GPA, and my Baccalaureate in Nursing Science degree. My achievements were recognized locally and internationally. I was elected and inducted into the Beta Psi Alpha Chapter of the Alpha Sigma Lambda, an honor society that celebrates scholarship and leadership of adult students in higher education. I also became a member of the Lota Upsilon At-Large chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau international, Honor Society of Nursing. I was also privileged to be nominated by my peers to receive the Laura J. Pipeling Award for “the senior student who exemplified the spirit of a community of scholarly caring.”

To all students seeking to create positive change, I urge the following:

  • Avoid negative self-talk and those who tend to discourage you.
  • Cherish the encouragers and challengers in your lives. Appreciate their belief in your strengths and abilities. Value those who never lose faith and give you positive encouragement.
  • Never lose sight of your dreams.

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