Navy Veteran Lori Smith has dreamt of becoming a nurse since she was a child.
“I’ve always wanted to help people, like I did with my grandma who had heart issues and a feeding tube. Just 6 or 7 at the time, I helped her use the pump and took care of her hair and bathing,” says Lori. “I saw how she enjoyed being cared for, and I just really enjoyed helping her.”
Once her contract ended with the US Navy, Lori decided to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse and enrolled at Norfolk State University. But because of a complicated pregnancy, she soon had to withdraw from the program.
“As my family grew and changed, I couldn’t pick up where I left off, so I put that dream on hold and focused on caring for my family,” she said.
In 2019, when Lori’s last child was a senior in high school, she finally had the chance to think about what the next chapter of her life would hold. “I dusted off that old dream and decided to research programs that I could do while I worked full time,” says Lori.
That’s when she found ECPI University in Virginia Beach.
“I chose ECPI because of the flexibility in the schedule. I could keep my 9-5, attend classes at night and do my clinicals on weekends,” says Lori. “Plus, it’s an accelerated program. I had already waited 25 years, and I didn’t want to spend a long time working on this goal.”
The LPN-RN Bridge program gave Lori the opportunity to move through at a quicker pace. “I’m an older student,” she says. “I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with the pace, but I made it out just fine.”
Lori’s journey to graduation did have a few hiccups. Right before the pandemic hit in 2020, Lori faced some personal health issues that forced her to withdraw from the program for over a year. “When I decided to come back, the admissions staff and the PN program staff were ready, willing and able to help me re-enroll. I was able to get started May 2021 and stayed on target for pinning in January 2022,” says Lori.
Lori’s next goal is to complete the RN portion of the bridge program at the Charleston campus, which is close to her family. “I’m scheduled to begin in the fall. My ultimate goal is to obtain my master’s in nursing education. I want to be a part of the team that produces phenomenal future nurses,” she says.
In the meantime, the brand-new LPN found her nursing position at a virtual job fair held in March. “I received four great offers, and chose an awesome position with an outpatient surgery clinic in Mt. Pleasant, SC. I’ll be working mostly with general surgery, like GI, oncology or vascular surgery,” she says. “They have a MA, but they want to expand their clinical experience. I’m the first nurse in that program!”
What advice does Lori have for those looking to change careers and enter the nursing field?
“Go into any program with an open mind and a willing spirit. You must put in the work and speak up. Open up and talk with the instructors when you have issues/concerns,” she says. “And take the initiative! Show interest at your clinical sites, and find nurses that are willing to let you shadow them. Remember, your experience is what YOU make it. At the end of the day, your goal is to make it to graduation day and into your new career!”
Best of luck, Lori!