Nursing is a career path with many levels of education. For alumna Shanna J., the right choice was taking it one step at a time, going from earning her medical assistant diploma at our sister school, American Career College, to completing her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Now, Shanna is paying it forward and giving back to the nursing community by serving as a board member at The Nurses Pub.
Working in healthcare was always a given for Shanna. “I knew that I wanted to work in the medical field because I enjoyed caring for people so much,” she said about making the decision straight out of high school. “My mother was a certified nursing assistant, and my father was a medic in the U.S. Army.”
Her search for the first step into the medical world led her to American Career College where she chose the Medical Assistant program because she was able to complete her diploma in just nine months and begin working right away. “I joined the program, graduated with honors, did my externship at Kaiser Permanente, and was hired immediately after graduation in the same department back in 2002.”
However, Shanna was ambitious and wanted to explore her full potential in the healthcare industry. She went on to become a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) and earned her associate degree in nursing in 2009 before passing the licensure exam to become a registered nurse (RN). “After this, I knew it wasn’t the end as I am a lifelong learner.”
Shanna kept going. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees through WCU’s online RN to Master of Science in Nursing program in 2012 and 2013, respectively. She then continued her education with our Family Nurse Practitioner track, earning a post-master’s certificate and becoming a board-certified FNP in 2019. Finally, she completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice (the highest degree available in nursing) in 2021 at another university.
“Each one of these degrees motivated me to continue with the next, and I continued to climb the career ladder within my organization where I have now been for 22 years.” One great motivator to keep going with her education has been her children. “Throughout this career journey, I had two lovely boys, now ages 11 and 9,” she said. “They continue to inspire me to be better than I was yesterday.”
Keep reading more of Shanna’s interview to learn about her journey.
WCU: Could you share a bit about The Nurses Pub and its mission and goals?
Shanna: The Nurse Pub aims to build a global community of resource centers that serves 100,000 future nurses in need of mentoring, awareness, scholarships, and to be the change agent to increase the nursing workforce.
The organization has hosted two previous fundraising galas in 2019 and 2021 where several nursing students were able to apply and be selected to receive scholarships to help their journey of becoming a nurse. In addition to this, The Nurses Pub has also partnered with LAUSD and hosted an After School Mentoring Program for STEM students in 11th and 12th grade. This after school program hosted different speakers/mentors each week, highlighting various STEM related positions. At the end of the program, the students received stipends and participated in a luncheon held at the SoFi Stadium.
The goal of the organization is to be that resource that many nursing students do not have, especially those in the underserved areas. For example, being able to provide childcare services at the resource center for nursing students to remove one potential barrier standing in the way of them and their goal of becoming a nurse.
WCU: What prompted you to become a board member at The Nurses Pub?
Shanna: Mona Clayton MSN, RN is the executive director and founder of The Nurses Pub. Having been a single parent herself during nursing school she understands the challenges that single parents can face and felt a need to give back and try to bridge that missing support gap. I met Mona when I began my career as a medical assistant at Kaiser where she was my charge RN.
Having been a single parent as well going through both undergraduate and graduate studies and being a minority, I felt a connection with the mission of The Nurses Pub. I reached out to Mona and offered my time in any capacity to help further the mission. I attended the first Gala as a guest and had the pleasure of attending the second gala as an advisory board member. I am looking forward to this third gala, which would be my second year on the board.
WCU: What has been the most rewarding moment during your involvement with The Nurses Pub?
Shanna: One of the most rewarding moments was the joy that one of the scholarship recipients had after learning she was selected as a recipient. Having read her application and story, I learned of the struggles she went through to try and become a nurse. She was struggling financially as a single parent and was not able to meet the cost of her studies and was considering dropping out for the time being. The scholarship amount she received was just enough that she needed to pay the balance on her student bill. The gratitude and appreciation she exhibited was priceless.
I have also been able to be a mentor for other nursing students who have seen or heard of my path and growth and are looking for support and guidance. I am always willing to mentor nursing students or provide some sort of direction or pathways they can choose to hit their goal. I know and understand how lonely and confusing everything can be and if I am able to share any knowledge that helps someone else, I am always more than willing to do so.
WCU: Tell us about your involvement with the WCU Alumni Association.
Shanna: Since graduating West Coast University, I have been involved with the Alumni Association. I have been able to participate in commercials, attend the alumni awards, been a captain on the Steptember team and even had a chance to be a part of the new student orientation videos.
WCU: What advice would you give to aspiring healthcare professionals?
Shanna: Pick the path that is best for you. Pick the path that fits your goals. Sometimes that may mean going a longer route than others. You cannot let other people’s paths direct yours. You are the author of your life story and choose how it will unfold.
Many people ask me why I took the long route. Well simply put, as a single parent I did not have the resources to attend full-time and had to choose the route where I would be most successful. I started my journey in this field as a medical assistant and am now a doctoral-prepared family nurse practitioner working with the same organization where I started as a medical assistant in 2002.
WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.